VILLAGERS who fear they will lose their homes to a controversial development project at Boeung Kak lake say they are holding out hope that officials will intervene and award them titles to their disputed land.
Thirty villagers from the Boeung Kak lake area protested in front of the Senate on Tuesday, a day after being denied a meeting with senior officials at Phnom Penh’s City Hall. The protesters said they hoped Senate President Chea Sim would step in to resolve the dispute, which housing rights advocates believe could see roughly 4,000 families evicted to make way for a development.
“Having little hope is better than being hopeless,” said Ing Navy, a representative of the villagers. “We can’t keep quiet until they come to pull down our houses.”
The protesters were not permitted to see Chea Sim on Tuesday, but instead handed a petition marked with 500 thumbprints to an officer of the Senate’s Commission on Human Rights, Reception of Complaints and Investigation.
In 2007, authorities signed a 99-year leasehold for the 133-hectare lake area with Shukaku, a developer headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin. This week, city officials said they had approved development plans for the project, which have so far not been publicly released.
Villagers say they have rights to the land, which authorities say is owned by the state. The city has offered families US$8,500 each in compensation.