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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lake residents detail abuses

Lake residents detail abuses

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090529_04.jpg

Boeung Kak holdouts say they are facing threats, lost property.

Photo by:
May Titthara

Boeung Kak residents describe the damage done to their houses by the filling in of the lake. 

 
FLOODING, fractured walls, lost livestock and ruined businesses were some of the complaints voiced Thursday as Boeung Kak lake residents met with journalists in what they said was a bid to shed light on the abuses they've suffered at the hands of developer Shukaku Inc, which is filling in the lake to make way for a large construction project.

Residents said they hoped that by publicising their grievances, they could pressure City Hall to void its lease agreement with Shukaku, which gives the company a 99-year hold over the area.

The agreement, residents said, has resulted in their illegal eviction. "There are now five houses that have collapsed since the company began filling in the lake, and at only one of those houses has the [compensation] problem been settled," said Be Pharom, a resident representative.

Lakeside resident Pol Theary, whose wooden house now has a 12-metre-long split at the back, said: "My house was nearly destroyed when the company began filling in the lake, and it has caused my family significant difficulty."

"Now, it is easy for my nephew or son to fall into the lake where they could drown, and the company doesn't want to settle the problem with my family," he added.

Officials from Shukaku, whose director is CPP Senator Lau Meng Khin, could not be reached Thursday.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun declined to comment.

While many have left their homes, opting for a pay-out, others say officials are not offering enough money or, in  some cases, failing to provide any compensation.

Keo Malaiy, a 25-year-old widow with two children, said that when her house was partially destroyed as the lake was filled in, the Phnom Penh Municipality banned her from rebuilding - offering her just US$200 in compensation. 

"They told me I was poor so I didn't need to rebuild my house," she told the press conference. "When my house was broken, I went to live with my friends, and when I asked for compensation, they did not give me any because they said my house was worthless."

Other residents reported that the developer had been threatening them with the destruction of their property to get them to leave their houses.

"[On Wednesday] they came and threatened to cut my mango tree down," said Mom Hor. "They did not care about the flooding in my house; they cared about my mango tree.

"Since the company filled the lake, I haven't had a place to feed my ducks. Now I haven't got a business to support my living," she added. 

People from the lakeside sent complaints to four ministries last week asking them to revoke the lease agreement with Shukaku, but a lawyer for the residents, Choung Chou Ngy, said that he doubted the government would respond.

"If it is a case that will get them a profit, they will respond quickly. But if there's no profit for them, they will find ways to evade or delay the case," he said. "They do not use the word ‘eviction' but Shukaku Inc's actions are exactly that, they destroyed houses and ruined people's businesses, so they will face penalties for these crimes," he added. 

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