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Lakeside residents report scare tactics

RESIDENTS of Srah Chak commune near Boeung Kak lake said yesterday that local authorities and masked employees of Shukaku Inc had resorted to using scare tactics in a bid to force them to accept inadequate compensation packages and leave their homes.

Kong Chan Tha, a 41-year-old resident of Village 24 in Srah Chak commune, located in Daun Penh district, said village chief Pong Heng and four masked women she believed worked for local developer Shukaku Inc had threatened residents on Monday, warning them that they needed to accept a standing compensation offer of US$8,500 and move away from the lakeside.

“They said we would not receive any compensation at all if we did not agree to move now,” she said. Five families agreed to move following the incident, she said.

Pong Heng “always urges us to accept the money and relocate”, said Ing Navy, a representative of Village 24. “We suspect that he might have received some bribes from the company’s owner.”

Shukaku Inc, which is headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, acquired rights to develop the lakeside in 2007. Housing rights groups estimate that more than 4,000 families will be displaced by the company’s proposed 133-hectare development project.

Yesterday, Pong Heng denied having accepted bribes from Shukaku Inc and having tried to scare families away. “The five families volunteered to move,” he said. “I have never received even one-quarter of a cent from the company.”

He added that 65 of the 418 families in Village 24 had agreed to accept $8,500 to relocate.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, yesterday said Shukaku Inc had “violated the villagers’ rights to adequate housing”.
“These people do not want to move away from their homes, jobs, doctors or children’s schools,” he said.

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