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Intimidation claimed at lake

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CHRISTOPHER SHAY

A man working to fill Boeung Kak Lake with sand tries to prevent a photographer from taking a picture on Monday.

A guesthouse near Boeung Kak lake that was set to host a meeting this Friday between residents, human rights groups and officials was briefly closed by police Monday in what critics of lakeside development say is part of an ongoing scare campaign by authorities.

"I led a mixed committee of police to close the Lazy Fish Restaurant and Guesthouse completely, because this restaurant and guesthouse had a business licence that had expired a few months ago," Daun Penh district Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth told the Post.

By Monday night, however, the guest house was again taking reservations, workers said.

Many Boeung Kak lake residents say the sudden interest in the Lazy Fish's business was not a routine check, but rather one of the intimidation tactics designed to prevent a meeting that would highlight rights issues surrounding the filling in of the lake.

"They knew that the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights [CCHR] rented this guesthouse to organise a meeting. Police told me that the NGO does not a have a permission letter from City Hall and, if I agreed to rent the place, they would close the guesthouse," a Lazy Fish staff member who declined to give her name told the Post.

After the owners were threatened, they informed the meeting organisers that they could not host the event at their venue, the Lazy Fish staff member said.

Boeung Kak lake resident Be Pharom, 57, said the police presence Monday morning was not just targeted at the guesthouse but was also meant to send a message to lake residents still trying to stop local developer Shukaku Inc from building on the lake, a project that will displace thousands.

"Now, because of the authorities, we are afraid the police will arrest us if we join the public forum," she said.

"[The authorities] do not really care about closing the guesthouse, but they need to make the owner cooperate," she added.

Chhim Savuth, a project coordinator for the CCHR, said that even though the Lazy Fish received threats, a meeting will still take place Friday at another location.

He added that police claims that a permission letter was needed are incorrect.

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