NGO Accuses Govt of Using Floods to Drive Lake Residents Out

A human rights group on Friday accused the government and a private developer of using the persistent flooding of villages around Boeng Kak lake to force residents out of their homes.

In a statement endorsed by three other organizations, the Housing Rights Task Force called on authorities to immediately stop the developer, Shukaku Inc, from pumping any more sand into the lake.

District and commune officials either could not be reached yesterday or declined to comment. However, authorities have made repeated promises to alleviate the flooding.

Residents and rights groups blame the pumping for flooding lakeside communities that used to survive the annual rainy season unscathed until Shukaku started filling in the lake two years ago. They say authorities have done too little to help. The filling in of the lake also appears to have caused the failure of wastewater drainage, causing effluent to enter the floodwaters.

“The continued pumping of sand into the lake and the inefficient drainage measures indicates the flooding is a deliberate measure to increase pressure on residents to move away from the area by exposing them to health hazards and conditions not fit for living,” HRTF Secretary-General Sia Phearum said in the statement.

HTRF also accused the government of violating residents’ rights to health and adequate housing, which are guaranteed under an international human rights treaty and the Cambodian constitution.

“Using flooding and its associated health impacts to force people to leave the [Boeng Kak] area is the latest in a series of pressure tactics used against the residents,” added David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia.

“Exposing children to the health hazards of sewage-laden water is a particularly repulsive tactic,” he said in the statement.

Rights groups say the compensation the government and firm are offering residents to leave the lake fall well short of what they deserve. Following several days of heavy rains last month that left some residents wading through their homes in knee-deep water, however, locals say more and more resigned homeowners have begun accepting the deal.

 

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