Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has asked the firm behind the controversial development of Boeng Kak lake to clarify what steps it has taken to tell residents how they will be compensated for moving out, according to a copy obtained yesterday.
Mr Chuktema made the request in a Nov 30 letter, which follows complaints from 24 families in Srah Chak commune’s Village 1 that Shukaku Inc-which has been filling in the lake with sand and flooding surrounding villages in the process-has failed to make good on its promise to compensate them.
Signed by the governor, the letter specifically asks the firm to explain the efforts it has made to keep the families informed.
“Please Her Excellency Oknha, provide clarification and comment to City Hall quickly,” the letter reads.
The letter is addressed to Shukaku’s director, but uses no name. During the September groundbreaking of a new road that will run through the development area, Mr Chuktema identified the firm’s director as Chhoeung Sopheap, the wife of CPP Senator and Shukaku owner Lao Meng Khin.
A month ago, some of the 24 families said they managed to meet with Shukaku officials. But they said the officials told them the $8,500 they were promised for their homes was now the responsibility of Toll Royal Railway, the joint Australian-Cambodian venture that took over management for the country’s rail system last year. The rail system’s tracks pass within meters of the families’ homes.
Toll CEO David Kerr could not be reached yesterday, though last month he said that his firm bore no responsibility for the families.
Shukaku officials also could not be reached. A call placed to the firm’s listed number was answered by the One More Restaurant. Staff at the firm’s lakeside office declined to speak with reporters and referred questions to City Hall.
City Hall officials could not be reached yesterday.
Commune chief Chhay Thirith yesterday said he had received a copy of the governor’s letter to Shukaku but had yet to see a reply.
“We don’t clearly know yet which one is responsible for the compensation,” he said. “We should wait until the answer [from Shukaku] comes back.”
Chan Puthisak, a Village 1 resident, said the families are just waiting for their money.
“We have become hopeful about receiving the compensation after we saw the letter,” he said. “We will move our home when we receive it.”
Some 4,000 families around the lake either have been evicted or still face eviction because of the Shukaku development. Housing rights groups have called the project illegal for ignoring the residents’ right to apply for land title and demand market value for their property.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)