Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday brushed off criticism and defended the filling of lakes and ponds around Phnom Penh to create land for buildings.
Speaking at the National Institute of Education, he said that critics of the practice were making an issue out of a long-standing practice.
“In the past, this place was called Boeng Raing commune,” Hun Sen said.
“Why was it called Boeng Raing? Because it was a boeng [a lake]. So, sometimes I am irked,” he said of critics.
“This land is potholes, and we fill the dirt into it for construction. And then they said all the lakes and ponds are completely filled,” he added.
Listing off several lakes in Phnom Penh that were filled in the past, Hun Sen asked why his predecessors were not criticized.
“Why were these places filled in the past to make the city? Why when Hun Sen’s regime fills in these places do they say it is bad? Why didn’t they say it was bad before?”
Those opposed to the filling of lakes have criticized the secrecy behind the practice, and have questioned how the reclaimed land has apparently fallen into the ownership of government officials and private companies.
Opposition party member Mu Sochua said that communities that depend on the lakes should be consulted and the benefits of such work distributed for the good of the people.
“If it is sure that the lakes are filled for good reasons that will benefit the entire community, I don’t see why the community would want to stop it,” she said.
If Hun Sen could ensure that filling the lakes helped the nation, then such practices would have wide support, Mu Sochua added.