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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Boeung Kak residents ask PM to halt filling of lake

Boeung Kak residents ask PM to halt filling of lake

Boeung Kak residents ask PM to halt filling of lake

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In a last-ditch attempt to save their homes, Boeung Kak residents protest outside the PM's Takhmao compound

Heng Chivoan

A young protester outside the PM’s Takhmao house on Wednesday.

MORE than 200 Boeung Kak residents

rallied outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's residence in Takhmau

Wednesday, demanding a halt to the filling of the lake and fair

compensation for those facing eviction.

Military police and local officials looked on as three Boeung Kak

representatives entered Hun Sen's Cabinet office to hand their

complaints to officials, while hundreds of residents waited outside

holding banners and placards bearing pictures of Hun Sen and his wife

Bun Rany.

"Wherever there is plight, there is Hun Sen," one banner read. "Please

Hun Sen, help halt the sand pumping and ask the company to compensate

residents' land at market prices."

Community representative Be Pharom said that she met six officials, but

expected the villagers' complaints  would be ignored. "I feel

disappointed with the meeting today because there is no solution for

us," she said. "The officials still want us to accept City Hall's offer

of $8,500 cash, or a house plus $500."

Since the filling of the lake began August 26, protesters claim houses

located near the sand pipeline had been engulfed by rising waters. "The

water went into my house three days ago," said resident Noun Thon.

A municipal drainage technician, who declined to be named, said that he

had sent a request Monday to City Hall to investigate the flooding of

lakeside houses. "So far I have seen the level rise 20 cm," he said.

"We have to keep a balance between the sand pumping in and the water

pumping out, but I cannot reject the government directive allowing the

company to fill the lake."

Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong dismissed the protesters' concerns,

saying recent rains had expanded the area of the lake by around 20

hectares. He also said the demand for market-price compensation was

"impossible", and that City Hall's offer was "better" than that given

to other communities living on state land.

The protest came amidst allegations of intimidation against NGOs

fighting to save the lake.  David Pred, country director of the

international human rights organisation Bridges Across Borders, said a

member of the  NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut had been warned by officials to

cease his involvement with the campaign.

"On Wednesday morning, a staff member ... was called by the district

governor of Daun Penh [Sok Sambath] and told to stop his involvement

with BK residents or ‘action would be taken'," Pred said by email.

"This is a direct threat. What is needed now is dialogue ... not

threats and intimidation."

Sok Sambath could not be reached for comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

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