Privatizing Boeng Kak Lake Was Illegal: Report

A report released Tuesday contends that the lease agreement granted by the Phnom Penh Mu­nic­ipality to a private firm to fill in Boeng Kak lake is illegal and that the government has failed to protect the more than 4,000 families living around the lake facing eviction.

The main issue raised in the re­port “Legal Analysis of the Boeng Kak Lake Case” prepared by the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions revolves around how Boeng Kak was classified at the time of the signing of the deal.

In February 2007, the municipality signed a 99-lease with local firm Shukaku Inc to fill in and develop the lake.

“On 7 August 2008, over a year after the lease was made, sub-de­cree No 108 purported to transfer 132.31 hectares of land, including Boeng Kak lake, from State Public Property to State Private Property,” the report states.

According to the 2001 Land Law, lakes are classified as State Public Property and can be leased for a period of no more than 15 years, the COHRE report states.

“The lease is invalid because it applies to a lake, which at the time the lease was made was indisput­ab­ly State Public Property, and on the face of it, the lease does not meet the requirements for leasing State Pub­lic Property,” the report states.

This year on Aug 26, the developers began pumping a sand-and-water mix from the Tonle Sap river to fill in Boeng Kak. Since then, residents from the area have protested not only the filling-in but also what they call inadequate compensation for being forced to move.

“The Government of Cambodia has failed to protect people at Boeng Kak lake from forced evictions,” the report said.

Offering little explanation, the mu­nicipality has argued in the past that filling in the lake is legal and residents’ compensation is adequate.

Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said Tuesday he has already defended the city’s Boeng Kak deal. He declined to explain how a private firm’s 99-year lease on State Public Property was legal.

“I don’t want to say the same and the same,” the deputy governor said.

(Additional reporting by James Welsh.)

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