Lakeside Residents Ask Hun Sen for Equal Treatment

After Prime Minister Hun Sen personally intervened in a Phnom Penh land dispute last week, hundreds of Boeng Kak lake residents set to lose their own homes called yesterday on the premier to offer them the same attention.

Mr Hun Sen telephoned Russei Keo district residents on Wednesday to tell them of a settlement that would allow many to keep their homes in Chroy Changva commune despite plans to widen part of National Road 6A.

At Boeng Kak lake, 4,000 families have faced eviction since 2007, when City Hall granted a private developer a 99-year lease to fill in and build over the lake.

Some have left already, taking compensation that residents call modest at best. Denied the chance to apply for land titles, they have had little choice but many remain defiant.

At a meeting in front of Wat Botum yesterday morning, about 50 lakeside residents gave a representative of the prime minister’s Cabinet a petition demanding titles and made direct reference to Mr Hun Sen’s actions in the national road dispute last week.

“I still have hope in Samdech [Hun Sen] because he intervened for residents along National Road 6A to allow them to live there when he saw their difficulty,” said Ly Mom, a representative of the lakeside residents. “I want Samdech to solve our problem just like the people along road 6A.”

Lim Leangse, Mr Hun Sen’s deputy Cabinet chief, said he had asked City Hall to determine if the petitioners in fact lived inside the project area, but he declined to say what would happen after that.

Asked what criteria the premier used in deciding which of the many land disputes around the country to step into, he said the premier had none.

“It depends on whether he can intervene immediately and then he does,” Mr Leangse said by telephone shortly before hanging up.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan suggested last week that the premier might have chosen to stay out of the Boeng Kak dispute because it was being handled by a specially convened committee.

Sia Phearum, secretary-general of the Housing Rights Task Force, described the committee as “useless.”

“In the context of Cambodia, the people do not trust the local authorities, so they ask the top levels to intervene,” he said. When senior government officials do intervene, this encourages the people to keep asking, Mr Phearum added.


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