Representatives of about 100 residents staged a protest in the Boeung Kak Lake area after a development company resumed sand pumping that submerged dozens of homes last week.
Development company Shukaku Inc, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, temporarily halted pumping on Friday and villagers said they were told that they would have three days to collect their belongings before pumping resumed.
According to the rights group Adhoc, roughly 40 homes were submerged last week during three days of pumping by the company, which started filling in the lake with sand in 2008 to make way for a 133-hectare housing and commercial development.
Be Tharom, a representative of the lakeside’s Village 24, said police and military police had helped the company’s security guards disperse residents who gathered yesterday to protest against the resumption of pumping.
“The owner of the Shukaku company has used excavators to destroy our crops and mushroom farms and has pumped the sand in to fill up villagers’ houses illegally, and the authorities did not stop them but threatened to arrest me, a victim,” she said.
Company representatives who visited the protest site yesterday and Duan Penh district deputy governor Sok Penh Vuth, who was also there, declined to comment.
On Sunday, Sok Penh Vuth said the company had “the right to invest” and that he had no authority to intervene in the matter.
He noted that it was “normal” for development projects to affect people and said residents should “take the compensation” offered by the company.
Shukaku has been granted a 99-year lease for its development project, which rights groups say will ultimately displace more than 4,000 families.Those affected have been offered roughly US$238 in compensation and 5-by-12-metre plots of land in Dangkor district, or cash payments of $8,470, though some residents claim they are being denied full compensation.
Ty Pisey, a resident of the lakeside’s Village 1 in Daun Penh district, said that she had refused to accept the compensation offered to her because it wasn’t nearly enough to buy a home in the city.
Businesses and homes along the lakeside have been inundated with sewage and floodwater in recent weeks as the sand-pumping has disrupted drainage in the area.
In a statement released last month, Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the pumping was being used to increase pressure on residents to move, and that flooding had exposed residents to “health hazards and conditions not fit for living”.
“This is [a] serious violation of the rights of the people,” he said.