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Eviction fears grow at lake

Eviction fears grow at lake

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Homes in Meanchey district’s Thnout Chhrum village are surrounded by sand that is being pumped into Boeung Tumpun lake yesterday. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Villagers living in raised houses on the capital’s Boeung Tumpun lake fear their eviction is on the horizon as sand pumping increases at the site, they said yesterday.

“I do not know why they are pumping sand into the lake,” said Kong Sopheak, 31, a resident of Thnout Chrum II village in Meanchey district. “But I have just overheard that they plan to build a supermarket and department store and construct roads.”

In recent months, heavy machinery has been at work at the Boeung Tumpun site. Sand pumping has increased, and workmen, including one yesterday who said he was from Vietnam, have been regulars at the lake.

“I’m very concerned about eviction,” Keang Sok, a resident of nearby Chak Angre Leu commune’s Prek Takong village, said.

“We do not have land titles, but we have a small land paper note issued from the municipal authority, saying we have been here since 1984.”

Under a proposed 2011 development, dubbed AZ Town, roads, including the 60-metre Hun Sen Boulevard, would cross the lake or pass near it.

AZ Town, a satellite city similar to Camko City, and the associated Hun Sen Boulevard would be developed by four firms – AZ Group, ING Holdings, Daun Penh Construction Group and SMEC International, according to documents obtained by the Post. None of these companies could be reached for comment yesterday.

Sok Lida, research project manager of land and housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut said his organisation had identified 28 poor urban communities that could be affected by development at the lake.

“Based on data from 2009 published in The 8 Khan Survey, about 2,000 families live in these 28 communities. Given the experience of the residents of Boeung Kak lake, STT is concerned about the impacts of this potential development on the current residents around Boeung Tumpun,” he said.

Long Kim Heang, a communications officer with the Housing Rights Task Force, said yesterday that many villagers on or around the lake were not aware of what development was planned.

“Until now, they don’t know what’s happening,” she said. “Some people do not care and do not think they will be evicted. Others are worried.”

HRTF had been offering legal advice to villagers about a possible forced eviction.

“What people want, if they do have to move, is proper compensation. They don’t know what they will get.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said yesterday that he needed more to time to look into the issue before he could comment further.

Deputy Director of Phnom Penh’s Department of Public Works and Transport Moeung Sophan could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Boeung Kak residents held a demonstration in which they burned effigies of “corrupt officials” to mark a year since homes authorities destroyed homes at their site.

“The [effigies] represent the corrupt officials who robbed us of our land,” said evictee Heng Mom.

With reporting from Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Shane Worrell and Greogry Pellechi

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