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Lakeside plea to UN


Residents of the Boeung Kak lakeside take their message to Ban Ki-moon outside of the UN Development Programme offices yesterday.
Photos by: Uy Nousereimony

REPRESENTATIVES of five Phnom Penh communities set to be displaced by real estate developments gathered in front of the office of the United Nations Development Programme yesterday in an effort to convince UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intervene on their behalf.

“About 100 people from Boeung Kak lake and other communities at risk of eviction joined together to demand to meet Ban Ki-moon on his visit to Cambodia,” said Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force.

Ban arrives in Phnom Penh today for a three-day visit.

Sia Phearum said the protesters had passed a petition outlining their concerns to a UNDP spokesperson.
“We hope that when [Ban Ki-moon] gets the message from the communities he will pass on their concerns to Prime Minister Hun Sen during their dialogue,” he said.

Soung Sophon, a representative of 18 families from Village 23 near the Boeung Kak lakeside, said yesterday that he hoped Ban would help residents secure fair compensation in exchange for vacating their homes.

“The authorities demand that we leave our homes without proper compensation so they can build a new road linking the Boeung Kak lake development zone with a road to the west,” he said. “We understand the government’s development needs, but the state should offer us a fair market price.”

The families – who are to be evicted to make way for the widening of the access road, R8 – have been offered about US$238 in compensation and 5-by-12-metre plots of land in Dangkor district, and families directly affected by the development at the lake have been offered $8,470.

Rights groups estimate that more than 4,000 families will be evicted to make way for a 133-hectare real estate project, which is being developed by Shukaku Inc, a local firm headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin.

Oeung Navy, a representative of several communities facing eviction from the lakeside area, described Ban as their “last chance”.

“Many times we have put forth petitions asking for intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen through his cabinet, top national institutions and through the Phnom Penh Municipality, but we don’t think our petitions have reached the prime minister’s hands,” she said.

“Therefore, we decided to take this opportunity to ask Ban Ki-moon to intervene and give our petition directly to [Hun Sen].”

Srah Chak commune chief Chay Thirith said he wouldn’t mind if villagers petitioned the UN secretary general, saying it was “their right”.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY WILL BAXTER

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