A hundred Boeng Kak lake residents converged on Phnom Penh City Hall yesterday to demand that the government immediately address what some lakeside villages say is the worst flooding they have ever suffered.
Alleys and homes in several villages around the lake remained flooded yesterday, waist-high in some places, raising fears of disease, electrocution and–for parents of small children–drowning. They unanimously blame Shukaku Inc, the private firm that has been filling the lake with sand since 2008 for a massive development project.
“The young children have skin disease. It is difficult to walk in the village and we worry that children will drown and be electrocuted,” read a petition the villagers brought to the protest.
With thousands of families facing eviction to make way for the project, they are also demanding titles to their homes.
“They promised that they will intervene to postpone the sand pumping and they will send the people’s request to the city governor and let him answer our request for land titles,” said Ly Mom, one of 11 villagers who met with city officials during the protest.
Yesterday’s protest followed a demonstration next to Shukaku’s lakeside offices on Friday and another near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house on Monday.
“We don’t want to hold protests, but our houses are flooded. How can we stand this?” Ms Mom asked.
A statement distributed by city officials after their meeting with villagers claimed their concerns would be raised with municipal governor Kep Chuktema “to review and resolve.”
Mr Chuktema was unavailable and Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penhvuth declined to comment, referring a reporter back to the city’s statement.
An exasperated Chhay Thirith, chief of Srah Chak commune, said Shukaku had temporarily stopped pumping sand on Tuesday at the city’s request and that it had already connected the community to a nearby sewage system to drain the floodwaters. He said their efforts would be further aided when they finish expanding the connection some time today.
“I told them but they don’t believe me. They still cause problems,” Mr Thirith said of the villagers.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann, who toured several lakeside villages after the protest along with a few other opposition party lawmakers, said he remained unimpressed by the government’s efforts.
“I see by my own eyes that the area is flooded and it will flood again when it rains,” he said. Residents “cannot live because their homes are flooded…. They do not have a place to sleep. Everything is in the water.”
Ms Mom said the villagers would stage another protest if efforts to draw out the floodwaters did not begin showing significant results soon.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)