Residents Evicted From Next to Lake May Leave With Nothing

Deputy Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said yesterday the government did not intend to compensate some villagers who have been ordered to vacate landfill on Boeng Trabek lake.

Chamkar Mon district authorities announced last week that residents living by the lake in Phsar Doeum Thkov commune had to leave by Monday due to rehabilitation of the city’s drainage system.

“The authorities have banned villagers from building into the drainage dike. We are further examining the effect on villagers and statistics, but for some families there is no government compensation policy,” Mr Socheatvong said, claiming that residents had illegally encroached on the lake. He said residents living by the lake legally could still be eligible for compensation.

The municipality plans to renovate more than eight hectares of Boeng Trabek to prevent flooding during the rainy season, he said. Mr Socheatvong declined to discuss the filling in of Boeng Kak lake, where local residents face eviction and which is blamed for flooding.

Commune chief Thorng Chhorn said the rehabilitation of the lake was to begin today. “We have prepared the machinery to restore the lake and announced precautions to villagers over houses collapsing as mud is removed,” Mr Chhorn said.

Kong Khimi, 41, who said she had lived on the bank of the lake for about ten years, said that on Sunday evening officials urged residents to leave quickly.

“I don’t protest authorities improving the drainage and sewage system, but a very short time of ten days was given to move,” Mr Khimi said. “I think the authorities are incorrect for not giving a good solution such as compensation.”

Nora Lindstrom, an adviser for the land rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said the circular on resolution of illegal temporary settlements in city and urban areas should be applied. It requires resolution in the form of on-site upgrading, relocation or compensation.

“If the government develops a circular regarding people living on public land, it should be applied,” Ms Lindstrom said.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, said that authorities’ actions near Boeng Trabek were “unbalanced” compared those in the Boeng Kak area, where evicted villagers were offered a relocation site.

(Additional reporting by Alice Foster)


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