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Lake concerns aired on World Habitat Day

RESIDENTS who face eviction from the Boeung Kak lake area joined an event to celebrate World Habitat Day yesterday in Phnom Penh, and vowed to continue agitating for their land rights until Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened on their behalf.

“Residents are being forced to leave [the lakeside], as their homes are swamped with sand and water, while those [residents] who attempt to claim their rights face intimidation and physical violence,” said Y Sarom, a representative of the coalition of NGOs that helped organise yesterday’s World Habitat Day event at Chenla Theatre.

“Better City, Better Life” was the theme of this year’s World Habitat Day, an observance that was first established by the United Nations in 1986.

Y Sarom said that despite multiple requests and petitions, the Cambodian government had not taken any proactive measures to prevent abuses from being committed against lakeside residents. He added that the current situation was “untenable”.

In February 2007, Shukaku Inc, a local developer owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, signed a lease agreement with the municipality giving it the right to develop the lakeside. The following year the company began filling in the lake to make way for a 133-hectare housing and commercial development.

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh municipal police chief, said yesterday that NGOs and Boeung Kak lake residents “should not exaggerate” when describing actions used by police to break up protests.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema and Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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