About 600 people from four villages surrounding Boeung Khyang Lake in Roka Chonloeng commune of Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district gathered at the commune hall on November 2 seeking an intervention and demanding authorities to preserve the lake for community use.

The protest came after 400 families in Roka I– another village near the lake – had received $350 each from land brokers for no specific reason and protesters believed the money was handed over with the aim of acquiring the Boeung Khyang Lake and surrounding land.

Chhuon Hon, a representative for the villagers, said the 600 protesters were from four villages – Chonloeng, Roka II, Taing Russey and Trea. Although the cash was offered, residents in the four villages refused to accept it.

“There are five villages, but only people from one village have accepted the money ... So we protested to ask for intervention from authorities to find out what is the meaning of the money,” Hon said.

Hon stated that the land brokers did not explain why they gave the money to the people, but their intent seemed to be the purchase of Boeung Khyang land. The brokers claimed that the money was for villagers to spend and did not mention the purchase of land.

“The land is state property, and it’s not for sale. But each family was given $400. However, the brokers kept $50 [of the $400],” Hon said.

According to Hon, people are concerned about losing Boeung Khyang lake as they have depended on it for a long time such as for fishing and growing vegetables to make a living.

“If they sell the lake, there is nothing left to rely on, because people have to find morning glory and catch fish from that place. People can rely on this lake in both the dry and rainy seasons. If it is filled, people will face difficulties due to flooding,” he said.

Roka Chonloeng commune chief Kong Noem said on November 2 that he had health problems and did not attend face-to-face meetings with the protesters on November 2.

Yan Roeun, a commune official better known as Kong Noem, said the people protested because they feared that the land surrounding the lake would be sold.

“I would like to inform you that this land is not for sale, just that the villagers are confused or afraid that the authorities will collude with land traders through brokers,” he said.

Roeun said the commune and district authorities have accepted the people’s request and set a specific time for a meeting to address their concerns by calling the land brokers and the people to clarify their reasons.

Khsach Kandal deputy district governor Etda Doramy said on November 2 that he had gathered information from villagers about the protest, but there is no solution yet.

“I just received information that the villagers protested and reported to the district governor about the needs of the people. So we do not have a decision as yet,” he said.