Villagers in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey District have had their homes flooded and are blaming Cambodian conglomerate Sokimex, who filled in portions of nearby Snor Lake, local officials said.
Som Phon, chief of Niroth commune, said Sunday that around 400 families in the villages of Thmei, Ta Ngov and Boeng Chhouk have experienced flooding with water up to a meter and a half deep and are blaming the Sokimex company for filling in a nearby lake for development purposes.
“My house has over a meter of water in it,” said Seng Thor, 54, a resident of Ta Ngov village on Monday.
“It has only gone down a tiny bit in the last few days,” he said.
“I have lived here for four years and I have never seen flooding like this, even when the rains have been very heavy,” he added.
Sokimex CEO Sok Kong confirmed Monday that he is in the process of filling 218 hectares of the 235 hectare Snor lake in southeast Phnom Penh, which he claims the company bought from villagers a long time ago.
The lake is being filled in as part of a $500 million development that includes supermarkets, a hospital, apartments and villas, Sok Kong said. He did not specify how much of the lake had already been filled in, but confirmed that construction of the hospital was to begin early next year.
“[Those villages have] been flooded every year when it is raining,” Sok Kong said. “It is not just from our pumping,” he said.
Meanchey Deputy District Governor Em Sok Leang said Sunday that the three villages had been flooded in part due to the actions of their residents.
“The flood is due to the rubbish in the river and houses that have been built on the river which have stopped the water flowing through it,” he said.
“We have asked [Sokimex] to dig a canal to flow the excess water into the Bassac lake and they are doing it.”
However, a number of the villagers at the flooded access road to their homes Monday said the steps taken by Sokimex have had little effect so far.
So Chandy, 43, demanded that government officials come to her house and see the damage that has been done.
“I had crops planted and now they are ruined,” she said. “We have to sleep upstairs in our house. They must do something to stop this.”
An official from the Ministry of Industry who would not give his name said he was coming to check on a plot of land he owned in the area.
“I cannot even get to it, as the water is too deep,” the official said.
The 2001 Land Law states that lakes are state property and cannot be sold.
In July, the Long Chhin Resorts company saw its development on Kob Srov lake demolished by order of the government for allegedly filling in the lake illegally.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the time that the demolition order was the beginning of a crackdown on the illicit filling-in of lakes nationwide.