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Lakesiders threaten China boycott

Villagers from the embattled Boeung Kak lakeside community threatened yesterday to boycott Chinese products if a Chinese firm reportedly involved in the development project set to displace thousands of lakeside residents does not send a representative to negotiate compensation.

During a gathering yesterday at the capital’s “Freedom Park” in Daun Penh district, roughly 200 Boeung Kak residents called for talks with Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co, a firm that Chinese-language news reports cite as a joint venture partner in the Boeung Kak lake development, along with Cambodian companies linked to ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin.

“We will stop using Chinese products if the Chinese company does not send a representative to negotiate with us,” community representative Ly Mom said yesterday, as villagers displayed Chinese flags amid their protest signs.

The Chinese reports reveal that Hung Jun’s lake development agreement was signed in July and involves both Shukaku Inc – which is owned by Lao Meng Khin – and the Cambodia International Investment Development Group.

The latter firm also appears to be linked to the senator. According to an undated government investment publication available online, the firm runs a special economic zone in Sihanoukville with Lao Meng Khin listed as the “zone developer”.

In September, Hung Jun representatives travelled to Phnom Penh for a meeting with the Prime Minister that was also attended by Choeung Sopheap, the wife of Lao Meng Khin and head of local conglomerate Pheapimex.

The lake development was reportedly part of a US$3 billion package of investment deals that also included a 750-megawatt power station in Sihanoukville and exploration for bauxite in Mondulkiri province.

The 133-hectare Boeung Kak lake development will ultimately displace more than 4,000 families, rights groups say.

The spokesman at the Chinese embassy Qian Hai denied yesterday that a Chinese firm was involved in the Boeung Kak development.

“From what I know, at this stage, no Chinese company is taking part in this project,” Qian Hai said.

He also dismissed Chinese media reports linking Hung Jun to the lakeside project.

“I don’t think you should publish this sentence in the newspaper – you just write what I told you,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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