Boeng Kbal Damrei, a large lake on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, has been almost completely filled in by developers, according to villagers and Russei Keo district officials.
The news follows the revelation on Thursday by Khlaing Huot, Russei Keo district governor, that Boeng Pong Peay, one of the city’s biggest lakes, has been partially filled in by two private firms that were granted government permission to do so.
The filling of Boeng Kbal Damrei in Russei Keo district’s Khmounh commune has been going on since the end of 2003.
Khlaing Huot said he had heard that a senior RCAF official was involved in filling in a large part of the lake, though it was uncertain what the land would be used for.
The exact size of the lake before it was filled in could not be immediately established Monday, though Khlaing Huot estimated it was hundreds of hectares in size.
Jouni Anttonen, a team leader with the Finnish government-funded Finnmap FM-International, who is providing technical assistance on land registration to the Ministry of Land Management, said the lake was about 100 hectares in size.
The law on water resource management is still under preparation, so it is unclear what the legal status of a filled in lake is, said Jukka Pekka Tolvanen, a Finnmap FM-International legal advisor to the Ministry of Land
But he added: “It’s not possible just to take public land and say it’s private.”
Under the 2001 land law, land where a lake has been filled in probably still belongs to the state, Anttonen said.
Nguon Long, 65, who was fishing in a small remaining pond while trucks carrying soil and rocks drove past him, also said the same RCAF official has laid stake to some of the land.
“The lake was big before. From here to Tuol Kok and [Phnom Penh International Airport],” he said. “It would take two days to walk around it.”
Fishermen at Boeng Pong Peay also said Monday that fish numbers in the lake have dropped dramatically since firms began partially filling it in.
“People cannot fish…because the fish died,” said Suon Seng, 76, who added that villagers were not consulted before the private firms began filling in the lake.
Chea Sophara, Ministry of Land Management secretary of state, who has a residence a short distance from Boeng Pong Peay, did not answer repeated calls Monday.
Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara visited the lake on Saturday, and said she will appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen, asking him to halt the operation until a study has been conducted about whether filling the lake will cause floods during the rainy season, Khlaing Huot said.
(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)