Lake Residents Ask Visiting UN Head to Stop Evictions

More than 50 residents fighting their pending evictions from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake area protested in front of the city’s UN offices yesterday morning in hopes of enlisting the aid of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr Ban is set to arrive in Phnom Penh this even­ing for a three-day visit.

“We will not leave,” said Village 20 resident Sam Vanna, one of yesterday’s protesters. “We want Mr Ban Ki-moon to meet Samdech Hun Sen and intervene for us.”

After unraveling a series of banners pleading for Mr Ban’s help, the protests handed UN Development Program staff a formal petition asking the secretary-general to raise their request for land titles when he meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to both the UNDP and Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Min­istry, Mr Ban is scheduled to meet the premier tomorrow morning. Neither office, however, has shed any light on what issues the men intend to discuss.

On Thursday, several Boeng Kak lake residents and housing rights groups also sent the UNDP a letter urging Mr Ban to meet with community members face to face.

At a news conference on Mr Ban’s visit following the protest, UNDP spokeswoman Aimee Brown said she did not know whether the secretary-general in­deed to accommodate their request. Besides tomorrow’s meeting with the premier, Mr Ban’s official schedule includes visits to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Toul Sleng Geno­cide Museum and the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

“I’m not sure what the secretary-general will do with their concerns once he receives them. All we can do is forward them to him,” she said.

Mr Ban’s press staff was en route to Bangkok yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Some 4,000 families were slated for eviction when City Hall granted a 99-year lease for Boeng Kak lake and the surrounding villages to private dev­eloper Shukaku Inc in 2007. Hous­ing rights groups say the city acted illegally by ignoring residents’ rights to claim land titles. Residents say this has allowed the government to pressure them into moving in exchange for paltry compensation.

 

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