ABOUT 60 people from communities surrounding the city’s Boeung Kak lake gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in central Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to demand titles for land they say they are likely to lose to a planned real estate development project.
Villager Seav Kheng said the residents had decided to protest in response to maps released February 26 by Chhay Rithy Sen, the municipal director of land management, showing that their properties are set to be impacted by the controversial project.
“We don’t want to oppose the government development project, but we want fair compensation – we can’t accept US$8,000,” he said, referring to City Hall’s offer to villagers.
Sim Lida, who also took part in the protest, said: “We would like to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to help us get our land titles, because we have been [at the lake] since 1979. If the company needs to develop on our land, they can buy it at the market price.”
Another Boeung Kak resident, Huon Navy, also said she wanted a resolution from the government, one way or another.
“Now we live as if in a prison. We have no right to do anything: even if we want to repair our houses, we can’t do it,” she said.
After the villagers arrived at Hun Sen’s house near the Independence Monument, district police moved them to nearby Wat Botum while they discussed the issue with the prime minister’s Cabinet.
In February 2007, City Hall signed a 99-year lease agreement with local developer Shukaku Inc, owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife, to develop the Boeung Kak area. In August 2008, local firm HSC began filling the lake with sand dredged from the Tonle Sap.
More than 4,000 families are expected to make way for the 133-hectare housing and commercial project. Last month, the Post reported that a succession of Chinese companies had been linked to the project, but the current status of foreign involvement remains unclear.
When contacted on Wednesday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth said local officials were merely fulfilling a “government directive”.