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Firms passing buck at lake

TWENTY-SEVEN Boeung Kak lakeside families have accused two private companies of shirking compensation payments and have demanded clarification as to which of the two is responsible for reimbursing them.

The families, from the lakeside’s Village 1, have been forced to leave their homes due to the controversial development of the lakeside area, which is being undertaken by local developer Shukaku Inc. They also live close to a railway rehabilitation project under the control of Toll Royal Railways.

Yesterday, the 27 families met with Daun Penh district authorities to demand a written clarification as to which company owes them compensation.

The villagers say they have accepted a US$8,500 compensation package – one of three options offered by City Hall for evicted residents – but that the two firms have passed the buck as to who is responsible for coming up with the money.

Resident Var Sophea, 25, said that only Sok Penh Vuth, the deputy governor of Daun Penh district, joined the meeting at the district hall yesterday, and that authorities from Srah Chak commune were absent.

She added that Shukaku Inc refused to compensate her family for its eviction from the lake, claiming Toll Royal Railways was responsible for the resettlement.

Sok Penh Vuth declined to comment about the meeting yesterday, while En Saphan, Srah Chak deputy commune chief, said that she didn’t attend and therefore couldn’t comment.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that the lack of information from local authorities showed that they were less concerned with people’s living conditions than with looking out for developers’ interests.

“It is very unusual that they didn’t know which company should be responsible,” he said yesterday. “If they didn’t know, why did they let Shukaku Inc pump sand and submerge the villagers’ houses? Do they not know that the people most affected by this are women and children who cannot access clean water and toilets?”

He requested that the municipality create a clear development plan that would not affect villagers’ homes until proper checks were in place.

Toll Royal Railways – a joint venture between the Australian Toll Group and the local Royal Group – has been granted a 30-year railway concession to rehabilitate the Kingdom’s railway system.

Toll Royal Railways CEO David Kerr said yesterday that his company has no responsibility over resettlement, and that the government and the Asian Development Bank, which is funding part of the rail development, were responsible.

“It’s nothing to do with Toll,” he said. “We don’t do resettlement. We only operate and maintain the railways.”

Representatives of Shukaku  could not be reached.



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