Municipal intervention police yesterday used their shields to push aside a group of Boeng Kak lake protesters who were blocking the main entrance to Phnom Penh City Hall, where some 50 lakeside residents gathered to demand a meeting with municipal governor Kep Chuktema.
The protesters have been demanding that private developer Shukaku Inc stop filling the lake with sand. The city granted Shukaku a 99-year lease to the area in 2007 for a project that housing rights groups say could displace some 4,000 families.
Lakeside residents blame the filling for flooding many of their homes, a situation that has been seriously exacerbated by heavy rain in the past few days.
“It floods because of the development project, which impacts the people,” said Ly Mom, a representative of the protesters. “[Mr Chuktema] used to say that it would become a green city…but it is not true. It is a city full of flooding and awful water.”
Ms Mom said the recent rains have left some communities around the lake waist-deep in water, forcing some families to temporarily flee their homes for dry ground.
“Mr Kep Chuktema happily sleeps in a villa, but he doesn’t know the difficulty of the villagers,” she said.
Some villagers yesterday said their primary fear of the flooding was the risk of electrocution. “The big concern when it floods is the electricity,” said Nuon Dorn, who said his Village 24 home started flooding for the first time this year.
After allowing villagers to protest for roughly one hour, city intervention police cleared the crowd away from City Hall’s front gate at approximately 9 am. No one reported being injured or appeared to be harmed.
After waiting for an audience with the governor for another two hours, to no avail, the crowd dispersed.
Ket Chhe, municipal deputy cabinet chief, said he was unaware of the pushing by police and could not comment on it.
Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penhvuth, who observed the protest, rejected the claim that Shukaku’s work was playing a part in the flooding.
“It floods because of the heavy rain. It floods in all of Phnom Penh,” he said.