Opposition Politician Urges Ban on Filling Lakes

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has urged the Interior Ministry to ban companies and individuals from filling in lakes, and to help to re­­turn already sold lakes to the government, according to a copy of a letter obtained Thursday.

Reports emerged in late January of government officials and private firms feverishly filling in Phnom Penh’s largest lakes to create land po­­tentially worth tens of millions of dollars.

The money made from lake sales is being divided among individuals ra­ther than being returned to the trea­sury, Son Chhay wrote to co-Min­isters of Interior Sar Kheng and Prince Norodom Siri­vudh in a letter dated June 16.

“There are so far a number of of­fi­cials colluding and faking documents to sell state properties like lands and lakes around the city,” Son Chhay wrote, adding that the sales are illegal.

He called on the ministry to complain to the courts, so that those who are trading in lakes can be brought to justice.

Selling lakes “creates anarchic land conflicts, and floods the city during [the] rainy season,” Son Chhay wrote.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Thursday that he had not yet received the letter.

“If I get it, I’ll submit it to the co-ministers,” he said.

Chea Sophara, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, declined comment.

The lakes being filled in include Boeng Pong Peay—one of the city’s largest.

Less than 1 km from the Choeung Ek “Killing Fields,” trucks were dumping soil in Boeng Choeung Ek on Thursday afternoon, which ap­pears to be at least 1 km in length.

The landfill operation began in Feb­ruary, said local farmer Long Sar­eth, who lives nearby.

He said he had heard that relatives of a senior Senate official were filling the lake so factories could be built on the resulting land.

“If they pour soil in the lake, the poor people’s business will be af­fec­ted. They fish in the lake and ga­ther water grass,” he said. “It will be a big loss for Phnom Penh.”

 

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