Photo by: Pha Lina
Boeung Kak lake residents display Chinese flags during a protest against a Chinese company involved in
Shukaku Inc’s development project during a week-long protest at ‘Freedom Park’ earlier this month.
A Chinese embassy official has claimed that “western influence” may be behind protests by residents set to be displaced by a local firm and a Chinese company developing the controversial Boeung Kak lake site, according to a Chinese media report.
A document dated November 27 that emerged earlier this month confirmed reports that a Chinese joint venture partner, Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co, has joined with ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc to develop a site that rights groups say will ultimately displace more than 4,000 lakeside families.
Residents affected by the project have staged near-constant protests in central Phnom Penh over the past few years to agitate for better compensation.
In a report last week by the Chongqing Evening News, Jin Yuan of the commercial section of the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh defended the project and Erdos’s involvement in it, noting that the Chinese firm “will only be involved in development and construction of the project, and will not play a role in clearing the construction site or in resettlement issues”.
“Resettlement itself is rather complicated, and some upset residents are too aggressive in seeking resettlement,” Jin said, according to the Chongqing Evening News.
“They think that the development company should be responsible to them for resettlement issues.”
The aggrieved residents, Jin added, may not be protesting entirely of their own accord.
“It is not out of the question that Western influence is behind the recent uproar. [Jin] told reporters that two years ago, Chinese development companies ran into similar issues in Laos, where Western media had created rumours that China planned to moved 50,000 Chinese people to Laos in conjunction with a real estate development," CEN reported.
Jin’s assistant, Wang Min, said in an email today that the embassy “has released an interview and so far has no further comment” on the Boeung Kak project.
Those facing eviction have received varying compensation options, including housing at a relocation site in Dangkor district, on-site relocation – the plans for which have yet to materialise – or cash payments of US$8,500, which they have complained are far below the market value of their property.
Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, rejected Jin’s account of the residents’ protests.
“They just want to open negotiations with the government or the company,” Sia Phearum said. “I think if the [Chinese] ambassador was affected by development like that, I think the ambassador would do the same thing.”