Lake Residents Request Injunction To Stop Filling

Boeng Kak lake residents filed a request at the Phnom Penh Mun­ic­ip­al Court on Tuesday seeking a court injunction to halt the filling of the lake, said Choung Chou Ngy, an attorney representing lakeside residents.

Choung Chou Ngy said his clients are also preparing to file a “public interest” lawsuit asking the court to void the 99-year lease be­tween the city and private developer Shukaku Inc, which is run by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin.

A small group of local residents have been fighting the development, which aims to turn 133 hec­tares of Boeng Kak lake and the surrounding area into high-end retail and residential space, and that will mean that about 4,250 families will need to vacate their homes. The protesting residents say they want the market value of their land if they are to move from Boeng Kak. On Aug 26, pumping began of sand from the floor of the Mekong River to fill in Boeng Kak lake.

“If we don’t stop the company [from filling the lake], the houses will fall down, and the roads will be flooded. The people are very concerned,” Choung Chou Ngy said Tuesday at a news conference held at the Community Legal Educ­ation Center in Phnom Penh.

Residents are asking for an in­junction because they believe the development agreement illegally infringes on possession rights of the residents and violates the 2001 Land Law, Choung Chou Ngy said.

According to Choung Chou Ngy, the law protects the lake from development because it is a naturally form­ed body of water, and it prevents a private company being grant­­ed a concession to the land around it because the area is al­ready privately owned by the current residents.

“A majority of people, especially the people who live on the land, they legally occupy it because they have land titles,” Choung Chou Ngy said.

“Even the people who don’t have papers but have an agreement with a landlord, they occupy legally…. All of these [will be] forced evictions,” he said.

“A minority of the people have accepted money from City Hall,” he added.

Municipal Court chief clerk Heng Bophea confirmed Tuesday that the injunction request had been received by the court but added that she was unsure when a judge might take it up.

The issuance of an injunction would depend on the will and caseload of whichever judge considers the matter, she said.

Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong declined to comment Tuesday because he had just re­turned from abroad and was un­aware of the current state of the lake development.

Lao Meng Khin could not be reached for comment.

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