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Boeung Kak families protest firm's seizing of sugarcane press

Residents say 10 Shukaku Inc employees impounded a resident’s sugarcane press on Friday and forced her to sign away her land

FIFTY Boeung Kak lake families protested outside the offices of Shukaku Inc Saturday morning after they claimed the developer used armed staff to seize a sugarcane press and intimidate the owner into thumbprinting a document stating that Shukaku owned her land.

Mom Thul, the resident whose sugarcane press was confiscated, said the document also said she would need permission to sell sugarcane juice there.

"They forced me to put my thumbprint on a contract to agree to stop selling in the area, otherwise I would not get my sugarcane machine back," she said.

"Now they said if we want to do business in front of our house, we must ask permission from the authorities," she added.

Boeung Kak lake community representative Be Pharom said 10 Shukaku staffers used two guns to impound the sugarcane press and take it to their office Friday evening.

The following morning, about 50 families went to Shukaku's office and demanded that they return the press.

"They should not use guns to mistreat people here," resident Sear Nareath said. "We are poor people, and we are not afraid of death.... If they support our living, they should not ban our businesses."

Commune and municipal officials were unavailable for comment Sunday. Shukaku officials also could not be reached.

Bunn Rachana, a monitor for the Housing Rights Task Force, called the dispute "very strange" and said it would be "totally unreasonable" for Shukaku to prevent residents from doing business in front of their homes.

Filling the lake

In February 2007, the municipality signed a 99-year lease agreement with Shukaku, which is owned by Cambodian People's Party Senator Lau Meng Khin and his wife Choeung Sopheap, handing over Boeung Kak lake. Shukaku Inc hired the HSC Company to fill in the lake, a process that started in August. An estimated 4,250 families will be affected by the lake's development.

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