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Kampong Speu lake row pitting tycoon versus villagers

House and crops in Kampong Speu province’s Chbar Mon town will be flooded during heavy rain if a private company owned by tycoon Chhoun Kim San continues to fill Boeung Chhouk Lake, concerned families in the area have said.

In a January 31 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen obtained by the Post yesterday, 218 families who rely on the lake for food accuse the tycoon of paying the local authorities for permission to convert the lake into land on which to build a bus station.

They allege that Chhoun Kim San colluded with Leang Mach, the wife of provincial councillor Yem Sokhum, to secure development rights; however, it is not clear which of the tycoon’s many companies is supposed to be managing the project.

Residents in the area told the Post that they had been scared to voice their fears about the lake being filled, but decided to do so recently before it was too late.

They believe they will lose their livelihoods if the lake is filled and fear torrential downpours that would usually run into the lake will flood their rice fields and houses.

Yem Kimsan, a representative of the residents, said the families were waiting for a resolution after sending the letter.

“More workers have been gathering by the day to help fill Boeung Chhouk Lake, which is at the heart of Chbar Mon town because it helps many residents make a living,” he said.

Workers began filling the lake, which covers about four hectares, in 2010, and only about 40 per cent of its water remained, he said.

“If the lake is completely filled, Chbar Mon town will have a big flood.”

Resident Seng Toch said many people earned money from the lake.

“The residents depend on the lake for their livelihood. They use it for fishing and to earn money from selling vegetables on the water such as water lilies.”

Neither tycoon Chhoun Kim San nor Leang Mach could be reached for comment yesterday.

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