More Than 1,200 Boeng Kak Villagers Compensated, Lake Filled For More Than 40 Percent, Says City Hall

Phnom Penh City Hall said yesterday it had compensated roughly 1,200 families in the Boeng Kak lake area who had left their homes last year to make way for the lake’s development, adding that developer Shukaku Inc had now filled 42 percent of the lake with sand.

Municipal Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said the municipality compensated 1,233 families in 2009 during the first round of resettling lakeside residents.             “It is the first step. The first step progressed well, the people agreed to the compensation,” he said, adding another 849 families would be removed during the first round of resettlements.

According to an annual report reviewing the actions of City Hall released Monday, 42 percent of the lake has now been filled with sand by private developer Shukaku.

Mr Chhoeun explained City Hall was taking a slow and stepwise approach to depopulating the Boeng Kak lake area, after which Shukaku could turn the area into prime urban real estate. “We do it step by step and there are many steps. After filling the lake the firm will then build the modern building and neighborhood,” he said, adding the municipality had set no final date for completing the resettlement of all lakeside villagers.

In August the last residents of Village Two and Village Four left their homes and at the time officials said Village One was scheduled for the next resettlement. So far, most families in Village One have continued to live there.

Residents left the two villages after months of protests by residents and rights groups, who claimed the compensation offer-$8,500 in cash or $500 and a small apartment in Dangkao district-was grossly inadequate and families had been forced to accept the compensation under duress.

Bunn Rachana, advisor to the Housing Rights Task Force, said yesterday: “Most people did not have enough time to get a fair compensation, most have accepted because they have no choice, there is no negotiation.”

According to the 2007 lease agreement between Shukaku and the municipality a total of 4,225 families had to make way for development.

David Pred, director of human rights NGO Bridges Across Borders, said the ongoing filling of the lake was also being conducted without regard for remaining residents, as was evident from the flooding of Srah Chak commune’s Village Three with sewage water, which occurred in recent months after Shukaku had blocked the local sewage system with land fill.

“This is a public health disaster in the making…. The company has not only operated above the law, it has operated without any semblance of human decency,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding City Hall should pay attention to villagers’ complaints and end the lake’s development.

 

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