Phnom Penh City Hall yesterday washed its hands of the decadelong contentious Boeung Kak lake issue, saying it was closing its conflict resolution process, leaving seven families who had refused to accept the government’s offers in the lurch.
Following the signing of a deal with CPP senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc in 2007, City Hall handed over 133 hectares of state land to the firm to build a still-incomplete satellite city. As the firm started to fill in the 90-hectare lake, residents were forced to leave due to flooding and forced evictions.
Some residents accepted compensation or apartments at the Damnak Trayoeng relocation site outside the capital, and in 2012 Prime Minister Hun Sen carved out 12.44 hectares from the Boeung Kak project site to resettle affected residents. All but seven of the 700 families accepted the plots of land.
Deputy Phnom Penh governor Khoung Sreng said yesterday that the city had attempted to negotiate with the remaining families, but that their large demands for plots could not be met by the limited amount of land at the site.
“The solution for [the Boeung Kak dispute] is now officially closed,” he said. “But, Phnom Penh Municipal Hall will reserve the land that we can offer them as compensation.”
He also warned the seven families to refrain from protesting and affecting public order, which would necessitate legal measures.
The families said yesterday that they had refused City Hall’s offer because the offered plots were not even close to the size of their original land.
Ly Nary, who was representing her family, said her original plot of land was 3,200 square metres, while City Hall is offering all the seven families combined just 1,150 square metres.
“Phnom Penh Municipal Hall offered four plots of land to my family and it is about 300 square metres. It is not equal to 10 percent of my land, so how can I accept it?” Nary asked.
Boeung Kak resident Sen Touch said the group would continue to petition the relevant authorities to find a reasonable solution, hoping to get at least half the land they lost to Shukaku.
“City Hall claimed that the case of Boeung Kak is over, but the resolution [process] was not transparent,” she said.
Sia Phearum, head of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that even though City Hall had ended its negotiations, there was still hope for a resolution at the ministry’s land dispute resolution committee.
“However, they should not lose hope. City Hall has closed their case but they can continue to file petitions at the national level to intervene and find a resolution,” he said.
Land Management Ministry spokesman Seang Lot declined to comment yesterday on whether they would take up the dispute in the wake of City Hall’s decision.
However, a July 2016 document sent from the ministry to City Hall says that in the event the latter fails to resolve the matter, it could be trasferred to the ministry.