DOZENS of homes on the edges of Boeung Kak lake in central Phnom Penh were inundated with water yesterday after flooding that locals blamed on the weekend’s heavy rains and recently resumed efforts by a local developer to fill in the lake.
“The company is filling in the lake with sand, but they do not take out the water first, so some of our homes have flooded,” said Pram Chamreourn, 39, a resident of Village 24 in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune.
“I do not know where to go if the flooding in my house gets worse tomorrow.”
In February 2007, Shukaku Inc, headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, signed a controversial lease agreement with the municipality, acquiring the right to develop the lakeside.
The following year, the company began filling in the lake to make way for a 133-hectare development project, which rights groups say will result in the displacement of more than 4,000 families.
Pich Sonly, 60, a resident of Village 1 whose house was flooded yesterday, said Shukaku had resumed pumping sand into the lake last week after a temporary hiatus.
“People’s houses are flooding but they still pump in more sand,” she said. She called the drainage system “inadequate”, and said it could deal with only a small amount of runoff.
Siev Saveth, 59, a resident of Village 24, said that she had already been forced to abandon her house because it was flooded with “a half-metre of smelly water”.
“I am afraid that my children will get sick because of the contaminated water,” she said. “I want the government to deal with the problem quickly.”
Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that the threat of flooding was a tactic used by Shukaku to force residents to leave the area.
“When they fill the sand into the lake and don’t have any kind of drainage to get the water out, it can cause flooding and force the villagers to move,” he said.
David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said that Shukaku had been “flooding people out of their homes” since 2008.
“It is a supreme act of intimidation aimed at getting people to move away and accept inadequate compensation,” he said.
However, In Sathan, Srah Chak’s deputy commune chief, blamed the recent flooding on “a few days of continuous heavy rain”.
“The company pumps sand in, but they also take out water,” she said.
Phnom Penh deputy governor Nuon Sameth declined to comment yesterday.