OFFICIALS in the capital’s Sen Sok district dismantled 46 homes on Boeung Tamouk lake yesterday, claiming the structures in question had been constructed illegally on state land.
Sen Sok deputy governor Chea Khema, who led a group of around 40 mixed government forces in dismantling the homes, said villagers had been informed repeatedly that they needed to relocate, adding that no violence had occurred during the operation.
“They still live on this lake because they said they want to guard their lotus plants,” Chea Khema said. “It’s state land – they know about this.”
Yin Im, chief of Sen Sok’s Samroang commune, said local authorities had informed the villagers in advance of yesterday’s deadline to dismantle their homes.
“They built anarchic structures on the lake, so they volunteered to remove their houses by themselves,” Yin Im claimed.
Chea Khema added the villagers at the lake have “other houses outside”, and that the homes at Boeung Tamouk serve as secondary dwellings that they use will tending to their plants.
But Boeung Tamouk resident Meas Chea, 52, said the home on the lake was her only residence.
“When they dismantle my house like this, I have no home anymore. I’m very poor and have no money to buy a new house,” she said.
“I know it’s state land, but please don’t evict the poor from here and give the land to the rich.”
Last week, Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema presided at a groundbreaking ceremony for the controversial Boeung Kak project, where a development run jointly by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin and a Chinese firm is set to displace roughly 20,000 people.
In a speech at last week’s ceremony, Kep Chuktema said city officials also planned to develop Boeung Tompun lake in Meanchey district as well as other lakes throughout the capital.
“In Phnom Penh, there are a number of lakes, particularly the giant lake, Boeung Tompun. We will have to develop Boeung Tompun,” Kep Chuktema said.
He acknowledged problems that have dogged government-ordered evictions in recent years but called such issues an inevitable aspect of development.
“We depend on the companies, which the government has determined will be the heads of the train that pulls Cambodia’s economy,” he said. “Development is followed by problems, but we will resolve the problems in accordance with the procedure of existing laws in the Kingdom,” he added.