Following another blow to legal efforts against forced eviction, lake residents to seek justice from Cambodia’s highest court
Photo by: Chhay Channyda
A woman identified as Chan Tha is consoled by fellow Boeung Kak villagers after Thursday’s Appeals Court ruling.
The attorney representing residents of Boeung Kak lake says he will lodge a complaint against their forced eviction with the Supreme Court after the Phnom Penh Appeal Court rejected a motion last week to stop development at the lake.
The lake, which is under a 99-year lease to Shukaku Inc, is currently being filled in by the company in preparation for development that will eventually displace some 4,000 families. Those set to lose their homes argue that they are not being fairly compensated. Rights groups, meanwhile, say the evictions are symptomatic of a general disregard for property rights.
The residents' lawyer, Choung Choungy, called the appeals hearings on Thursday "unjust", adding that "if the judge followed the rule of law, we would have won the case".
Residents waiting outside the courthouse were in a frenzy after a rejection of the appeal was announced.
"I depend on the court to find justice for our residents, but the court serves only the rich," said Chan Tha, who owns a home along the lake.
Another devastated resident, Be Pharom, insisted the legal proceedings were riddled with corruption. "For the poor, there is no justice," she said.
Attempts to block the development of the lake began in September when thousands of affected families filed an injunction at the Municipal Court demanding the project be halted. All court petitions so far have been denied.
Communities near the lake have also blamed floodwaters that forced the closure of many schools in the area for as many as three months on the filling of the lake, which environmentalists and urban planners have noted absorbs a significant volume of the rainy season's downpour.
Cheng Peng Hab, the lawyer for Shukaku who was present at the Appeals Court, insisted any complaints against the company were misplaced because it is not a party in the dispute.
"This case is a dispute between the people and Phnom Penh Municipality. Our company rented the land from the municipality. Therefore, the authorities of Phnom Penh have to work it out with the people."