MUNICIPAL officials are set to break ground on a 30-metre-wide road at the city’s Boeung Kak lakeside this week, stoking residents’ fears that development at the site will force them from their homes.
According to this week’s City Hall schedule, municipal officials – including Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema – will open the construction site for a road designated Road 5 (R5) on Wednesday.
A total of 12 access roads are set to be built as part of the controversial 133-hectare housing and commercial development project planned for the lakeside.
Local developer Shukaku Inc began filling the lake with sand in August 2008, and land rights activists say more than 4,000 families will eventually be relocated for the project.
In May, City Hall approved three of the 12 roads, which will link the Boeung Kak area with Street 106 to the east (R5) and Street 169 to the south via a US$7 million overpass (R6). The third road (R8) will connect the lake’s western side, close to Neak Von pagoda, with Streets 608 and 616.
However, lakeside residents say they have not been informed of the plans, and fear the new road could force them out.
Kwann Khem, 37, one of more than 100 residents who gathered outside City Hall yesterday to demand land titles to their lakeside properties, said she was very concerned when she heard officials would commence construction on the road this week.
“We are very worried about becoming homeless, because the authority plans to start constructing a road tomorrow according to the master plan for the development of the Boeung Kak lake area,” she said.
“We asked the city authorities to cut our homes from the development area and then asked them to provide land titles to us, but they ignored our offers.”
City Hall officials said residents should not worry about the impact of the road project.
“Establishing the road R5 will not affect people’s homes,” said Ty Dory, chief of the municipality’s Office of Land Management Affairs. Other officials, however, said they had not yet received information about the new road from City Hall.
“If City Hall wants to build new roads or expand roads in my commune, I would certainly know. But I think that those people are making overstatements to distort the authorities,” said Chay Thirith, chief of Srah Chak commune, which encompasses many of the lakeside’s communities.
Villagers living in the area, meanwhile, continue to request land titles for properties many claim to have occupied since the 1980s.
Vann Ny, a 52-year-old resident of Village 1 at the Boeung Kak lakeside, said she had been greatly concerned since she saw that her home fell within the development zone.
“I do not want to relocate – I want to live in my home close to the Boeung Kak lake development project like the other people,” she said.
45-year-old Ly Mom, a community representative from Village 24, said yesterday that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet and the National Assembly had both accepted the residents’ complaints and urged Kep Chuktema to resolve the issue for the people as soon as possible.
She said City Hall officials told villagers yesterday that they would receive word on the issue by next Monday.
“We want to know when the city authorities will respond to our offer,” she said.