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Boeung Kak lake protest held

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HENG CHIVOAN

One of 300 Boeung Kak residents thumbprints a complaint over the lake’s reclamation at City Hall on Monday.

HUNDREDS of Boeung Kak residents marched on City Hall Monday demanding the municipal government halt the filling in of the lake and provide market-value compensation for those losing their homes to the development.

Local developer Shukaku Inc started pumping sand into the lake August 26 at the first stage of a controversial 133-hectare housing and commercial project that will see all but 10 percent of the lake reclaimed.

Protest leader Bun Navy said that three villagers were allowed to enter City Hall to submit thumbprints and a signed petition.

"We were told by an official at the administrative office that they would solve the problems for us within one week. If there is no solution, we will go to Prime Minister Hun Sen's house next week," he said.

Protestor Keo Lon said the lake was being filled under a veil of secrecy. "I live near the most affected area, in Village 4, where the sand pipe has been installed. Villagers were not informed about the sand or told about the development until the work started last week," she said.

"I have lived here for 16 years, but didn't know anything about the new development until I saw it in the media."

She said that the lake's water level has risen  one centimetre a day since filling began and will start flooding houses in five days if the pumping continues.

Bunn Rachana, a monitoring officer for the NGO coalition Housing Rights Task Force, said at the protest that "it is not acceptable that no compensation has yet been provided, but that the company has started filling the lake. It is not only affecting people living around the lake, but every Phnom Penh resident. It will cause floods in the city".

Bunn Rachana is also concerned that the Ministry of Environment has not yet made public its environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project, which supposedly gave the green light last month.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said: "City Hall [has] accepted the petition from the villagers and is now reviewing it." He declined to comment further.

Puth Sorithy, EIA department director at the Ministry of Environment, also declined to comment on the Boeung Kak EIA, referring reporters to Environment Minister Mok Mareth, who could not be reached Monday.

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