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Villagers hold third protest

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Lakeside residents demand a halt to the filling of the lake

Heng Chivoan

Boeung Kak villagers hold their third protest Monday at City Hall against a large scale development plan for the lake.

ABOUT 50 Boeung Kak villagers gathered Monday morning at City Hall for the third protest against a large-scale development project that will see them evicted from their lakeside homes.

Police officers were deployed to prevent violence during the demonstration, but the protest was subdued, with residents holding placards with pictures of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany.

Last week, residents from Village 4 submitted thumbprints and petitions to City Hall and local developer Shukaku Inc, asking that they halt the filling of the lake until fair compensation is paid to the villagers.

Protester Phan Sopheap, 45, said that she was demonstrating for the first time to demand legal recognition of her land and a halt to the reclamation of the lake, which began August 26 in preparation for a proposed 133-hectare housing and commercial development.

"We want to sell [our land] according to the market price," she said.

Noun Thol, a resident of Village 4, said those who protested last week were awaiting a reply from the municipality, and held out hope for a suspension of the construction. "The company stopped pumping sand into the lake on Friday when around 300 villagers protested at the company's office," he said.

So far, 700 of the 4,250 families living at Boeung Kak have agreed to accept replacement housing and US$500 cash or a lump-sum payment of $8,500 in return for relocating. But David Pred, country director of legal advocacy group Bridges Across Borders, said the government was legally bound to provide fairer compensation to the evictees.

"The [2001] Land Law and the Constitution state that you cannot be deprived of ownership without being paid a fair and just compensation in advance ... the universal standard is market value," he said.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said that City Hall is still working to resolve the case brought by the protesters.

"They have protested, but we are still working on the case," he told the Post Monday. 

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