More Boeng Kak Families Accept Land Swap

Twenty-one more families facing eviction from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood have accepted new plots of land in exchange for moving, further whittling down the number of families still holding out for better deals.

When Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2011 decreed that a piece of the 133 hectares controversially leased to CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s firm, Shukaku, be carved out for the several hundred families still living there, about 100 families were left out. They have been campaigning for inclusion within the set-aside 12 hectares ever since and have struck deals with the government in small groups.

Mean Chanyada, the municipal government’s administration chief, said on Sunday that 21 families living in Village 1, on the west side of the development site, have accepted land inside the 12 hectares, which sits on the east side, and picked out their new plots on Saturday by drawing lots.

He said 16 of the families will receive 64-square-meter plots and those that had a bit more land in the village will get 72-square-meter plots once city staff finish measuring the exact sites inside the 12 hectares after the Khmer New Year, which ends Saturday.

Mr. Chanyada refused to say how many Village 1 families were still declining the government’s offer.

“Those families have refused our solution because they demand more compensation than the limit of our policy, and we cannot do it for them,” he said. “We have offered them two plots each, but they do not agree.”

Chan Puthisak, who accepted a 64-square-meter plot, said there were still 15 families from Village 1 holding out for more land. He said he was giving up 75 square meters in the village but agreed to settle for less “because we are tired after protesting for many years.”

Ly Channary, who is among the 15 families that refused to draw lots, said she bought 3,250 square meters in the village for $10,000 in 2003 and was offered 288 square meters inside the 12 hectares.

“I have refused to accept the compensation because it is not fair,” she said.

Ms. Channary said she would settle for nothing less than 53 percent of the land she bought because that is exactly how much the family who lived next to her was offered for their 404 square meters.

Boeng Kak activist Tep Vanny said there were only four other families in the neighborhood who had yet to accept compensation besides the 15 holdouts in Village 1.

Some 3,000 families were evicted from Boeng Kak before Mr. Hun Sen ordered the 12 hectares severed from the development site in 2011. They all accepted cash payouts or free housing on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, though many say neither was fair compensation for the Boeng Kak homes they were forced to leave.

The World Bank froze all new lending to Cambodia in 2011 in protest over the evictions, which rights groups have said violated the 2001 Land Law by denying the families the chance to apply for titles.

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