More than 500 villagers from 40 communities across the country gathered yesterday at Boeung Kak in Phnom Penh to launch a campaign against the filling of lakes for commercial development projects.
Representatives from communities affected by the filling up of lakes, supported by the presence of around 10 monks, launched the “Free the Lakes” campaign highlighting the challenges faced by people who were evicted to make way for private-sector projects.
Following the launch, a smaller group of representatives proceeded to the National Assembly to submit a petition calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to take action on errant private sector companies and government officials involved in the filling of lakes and evictions.
“We want government leaders to stop immediately development projects that require the filling up of natural lakes in this country,” said Boeung Kak evictee spokesman Chan Puthisak.
“The filling of Boeung Kak Lake set a terrible precedent, showing the tragedy of thousands of families who were forcefully evicted for the benefit of private companies,” he said.
He said other communities around the country could use Boeung Kak as an example to highlight the trials of the evictees displaced by development projects.
The petition, which refers to a report by urban NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), also details the negative results of filling up natural lakes around Phnom Penh.
STT director Ee Sarom said while the benefits from the big development projects went to big private investors and some high ranking government officials, it was the people who faced the difficulties associated with filling up lakes.
“We are worried about the filling up of some lakes in Phnom Penh, as that will cause land disputes and damage the ecology,” he said.
This week, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology announced the filling of lakes around Phnom Penh, such as Porng Peay, Tompoun and Choeung Ek, would cease.