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Police block lakeside protest

ABOUT 50 civilian and military police were deployed yesterday in the Boeung Kak lake area to prevent residents of Village 1 from protesting against the filling of the lake by Shukaku Inc after about 30 houses were inundated with slurry on Tuesday night.

“My home was completely flooded, and the level of sand has increased to as high as my knees,” said Sok Hour, a resident of Village 1.

“They pumped sand throughout last night while I was sleeping.... The waters entered under my bed and rose up to hit my back,” she said.

She said more than 10 houses had been filled to the roof with sand, and that the owners had been forced to sleep along the railway that skirts the lake.

In 2007, Shukaku Inc, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, signed a lease with the municipality giving it the right to develop the lakeside. The following year, the company began filling in the lake to make way for a 133-hectare housing and commercial development, which housing rights advocates say will displace more than 4,000 families.

Ung Navy, a village representative, said the company and municipal authorities should examine and resolve the residents’ complaints.

“Now we are protesting to stop the company’s sand-pumping and make them think about our compensation first because our houses are completely flooded,” she said.

Srah Chak District Governor Chhay Thirith said about 70 percent of the families living in floating or stilt houses had already dismantled their homes and left the lakeside. He put the total number of these families at around 2,000.

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said the remaining residents were holding out for adequate compensation.

“We want to see the company buy the peoples’ land at a fair market price,” he said. “But the government considers the people its enemy.”

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong declined to comment yesterday.

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