Phnom Penh Municipality announced on Monday via its website that land reclaiming and grabbing in the Boeung Trabek lake area was prohibited, and that the city’s court system would punish any known perpetrators.
“In [the] case of illegal land grabbing, land reclaiming or any illegal construction into this reservoir system, Phnom Penh Capital Hall will take such a case as ... violence into the state’s public property and the case would be brought to the court in accordance with Articles 259 and 260 of [the] Land Law (offenders will be fined or imprisoned),” the statement read.
The statement added that perpetrators would have to move away from the area without any rights or claims for personal construction expenses.
The municipality statement followed a protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh home last week, during which Boeung Trabek residents alleged the loss of farmland due to a drainage project.
Residents said that 153 families were displaced as a result of ongoing canal construction.
Many have also expressed concern that the land would be given to a private developer, rather than being used for a drainage project.
“I want everything to be transparent,” said Oen Sothon, a village representative from Chamkarmon district’s Phsar Doeum Thkov commune. “I am waiting to see whether they dare to damage these houses or not.”
Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Last week, Chamkarmon district governor Lo Yuy said “If I fill the lake with sand and keep the land titles for government officials, please let lightning strike me”.
Ouch Leng, land programme officer at rights group Adhoc, said even if the Boeung Trabek lakeside was state land, the residents “should have some compensation because they’ve lived there [for] a long time”.
In a related case, about 500 families from Pshar Doeum Thkov in September were to dismantle their homes for the reservoir system refurbishment, though the deadline for their eviction passed without incident.