In a last-ditch attempt to save their homes, Boeung Kak residents protest outside the PM's Takhmao compound
A young protester outside the PM’s Takhmao house on Wednesday.
MORE than 200 Boeung Kak residents
rallied outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's residence in Takhmau
Wednesday, demanding a halt to the filling of the lake and fair
compensation for those facing eviction.
Military police and local officials looked on as three Boeung Kak
representatives entered Hun Sen's Cabinet office to hand their
complaints to officials, while hundreds of residents waited outside
holding banners and placards bearing pictures of Hun Sen and his wife
"Wherever there is plight, there is Hun Sen," one banner read. "Please
Hun Sen, help halt the sand pumping and ask the company to compensate
residents' land at market prices."
Community representative Be Pharom said that she met six officials, but
expected the villagers' complaints would be ignored. "I feel
disappointed with the meeting today because there is no solution for
us," she said. "The officials still want us to accept City Hall's offer
of $8,500 cash, or a house plus $500."
Since the filling of the lake began August 26, protesters claim houses
located near the sand pipeline had been engulfed by rising waters. "The
water went into my house three days ago," said resident Noun Thon.
A municipal drainage technician, who declined to be named, said that he
had sent a request Monday to City Hall to investigate the flooding of
lakeside houses. "So far I have seen the level rise 20 cm," he said.
"We have to keep a balance between the sand pumping in and the water
pumping out, but I cannot reject the government directive allowing the
company to fill the lake."
Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong dismissed the protesters' concerns,
saying recent rains had expanded the area of the lake by around 20
hectares. He also said the demand for market-price compensation was
"impossible", and that City Hall's offer was "better" than that given
to other communities living on state land.
The protest came amidst allegations of intimidation against NGOs
fighting to save the lake. David Pred, country director of the
international human rights organisation Bridges Across Borders, said a
member of the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut had been warned by officials to
cease his involvement with the campaign.
"On Wednesday morning, a staff member ... was called by the district
governor of Daun Penh [Sok Sambath] and told to stop his involvement
with BK residents or ‘action would be taken'," Pred said by email.
"This is a direct threat. What is needed now is dialogue ... not
threats and intimidation."
Sok Sambath could not be reached for comment.
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