A company run by Singaporean investors has entered into a $71 million joint venture agreement to develop 1 hectare of land on what was previously Boeng Kak lake, though the company’s Cambodia representative on Tuesday said the deal was not yet finalized.
Details of the project were given in a news release posted Monday to the Australian Stock Exchange, where the company, Kingsland Global, is listed.
Lee Kae Kang Eddie, a representative of Kingsland’s Cambodia subsidiary, Kingsland Venture, seemed caught off guard by the announcement when visited at the company’s office on Tuesday, and said there were “still details to be ironed out” before declining to comment further. According to the release, Kingsland will partner with a subsidiary of Shukaku Inc., CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s company which owns Boeng Kak, to build a “mixed development” that includes office space, a hotel, a convention center and an information technology and media hub.
Kingsland will be responsible for putting up the $71 million and managing the project, while Shukaku would provide the land titles and proper permits. Kingsland would acquire a 49 percent ownership stake in the project, while Shukaku’s subsidiary, Urban Global, would maintain a 51 percent share, the release said.
The two companies made a different cooperation agreement in February last year to develop the area but the project is now moving forward under the new arrangement.
Proposed is a “wholesome planned development” that would “further enhance Cambodia’s business landscape while strengthening its local talents,” the news release said.
The release directs readers to Kingsland Global’s managing director, Jeremiah Lee, for further information. Repeated calls to the number provided for Mr. Lee went unanswered on Tuesday.
Shukaku has faced criticism for the better part of the last decade over its eviction—with the help of City Hall—of about 3,000 families from around Boeng Kak lake, which it began to fill with sand in 2008. The evictions have led to one of the capital’s largest and longest-running land disputes, ensnaring multiple activists in legal battles and prison terms along the way.
Boeng Kak evictee and activist Chan Puthisak decried the decision by Kingsland to invest in the land on Tuesday, but acknowledged that organizing a protest would be difficult in an increasingly oppressive political climate.
“There is no solution properly for that land yet, with the abuse of human rights, eviction of the residents and imprisonment of the residents,” Mr. Puthisak said. “So any investment on that land while there are no solutions to those problems yet—I think it is a business under the sweat and blood of the people.”
One of the most prominent Boeng Kak activists, Tep Vanny, was sentenced to more than two years in prison in February over a 2013 protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house related to the eviction. Dozens of local and international rights groups have labeled the charges baseless, and have called for Ms. Vanny’s immediate release and for the charges to be dropped.
Shukaku has struggled to raise capital to develop the
Boeng Kak area in recent years. A Chinese company agreed to invest in 2010 but later pulled out in 2014, and Singaporean company HLH also agreed to invest before later withdrawing in 2014 following protests by activists at the Singaporean Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Shukaku did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Kingsland Global’s board members have other investments in Cambodia. Mr. Lee and Mr. Eddie both occupy leadership roles at Max Credit Pawn Shop and New Union, two financial service firms in Phnom Penh, according to the latter’s website.