Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lake plan remains shrouded

Lake plan remains shrouded

Lake plan remains shrouded

Residents and media barred from presentation of Boeung Kak development

PHNOM Penh officials met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss plans for the controversial Boeung Kak lake development site, though new details have been disclosed in recent days to some of the families who stand to be affected by the secretive project.

Residents were not invited to the meeting, while a reporter was also turned away – further proof, housing rights advocates said, of the lack of transparency surrounding the plans for the site.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema was scheduled to host a presentation Thursday to show the master development plan for the Boeung Kak lake area, where an estimated 4,000 families are facing eviction.

Asked to provide details after the meeting, Kep Chuktema said he was too busy to talk. Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun confirmed that the presentation took place, but declined to comment on its contents.

However, a newly produced graphic (see page 2) detailing the most recent vision for the development suggests the plan has changed from previous designs.

The graphic, obtained by the Post on Thursday, depicts a series of towers lining the western and southern edges of the site. An access road from the south leads into the complex, runs between two large towers and heads towards what appears to be a drastically smaller lake in the centre of the development.

In addition, the graphic shows what appears to be a stream that branches out of the lake and snakes towards the northeast corner of the development area. Smaller buildings line the stream as it curves and ends in a second lake.

Sia Phearum, the secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said he has spoken with affected residents who have also seen a copy of the graphic.

He said the villagers think the design looks “nice”, but that they are also dismayed that planning for the development is proceeding even as the fate of their homes remains unresolved.

“They think the picture looks very nice and interesting,” he said.

“But they’re unhappy and disappointed because they designed it without consulting the community.”

‘Not for everyone’

City Hall has promised to compensate affected families, but residents say previous offers of US$8,000 or a plot of land on the outskirts of the capital are insufficient or unacceptable. Although an estimated 1,000 families have already been moved, those who remain have been left in limbo.

“The development moves so fast,” Sia Phearum said.

“We are all humans. We should talk together. If we can’t talk, then there are no fair negotiations and no good solution. This development is not for everyone; it’s only for a small group of people.”

Concrete details on the Boeung Kak lake project have rarely been released since officials first announced plans to develop the area more than three years ago.

The city agreed to a 99-year lease of 133 hectares surrounding the lake to a local company called Shukaku, which is headed by Lao Meng Khin, a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Since then, however, officials have been tight-lipped over the size and scale of the project, despite the fact that workers have already begun filling in sections of the lake with sand.

An early master plan for the area detailed residential and commercial zoning, complete with office buildings, recreation centres and entertainment complexes.

A map showing the outer limits of the development wasn’t shown to affected villagers until earlier this year.

Thursday’s closed-door meeting was another example of the government deliberately with-holding information from the public, residents and rights activists said.

Soy Kolab, who lives in Village 6 in the northeast section of the lake area, said some villagers knew about Thursday’s meeting but were not allowed to participate.

“The authorities are always saying they do development projects to reduce poverty in Cambodia and demand that we join together, but they have never called us to join in meetings or to listen and share suggestions with them,” Soy Kolab said.

Ing Navy, who lives in Village 24, bemoaned what she said was an attempt by the authorities to “confiscate my homeland”.

“We have lived here for more than 20 years, but they accuse us of living illegally,” she said.

David Pred, executive director of the group Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said authorities have shown a “stunning lack of regard” for the residents, who stand to lose their homes if the project is completed.

“It is extraordinary how non-transparent the largest and most invasive development project in Phnom Penh has been,” Pred said.

“More than 1,000 families have already been displaced from the area, while many others have seen their homes collapse or flooded with waste water. Yet, to this date, hardly any information about the development plan has been released to the public.”

Advocates say most of the families who live in Boeung Kak are long-term residents who are eligible for ownership of their land under the 2001 Land Law, and that the deal granting a lease to Shukaku is illegal.

Authorities, however, insist that the land belongs to the state.

Mystery also surrounds the development’s financial backers.

Earlier this year, the Post reported that a succession of Chinese companies have been linked to the project. Reports in Chinese news media pegged the total cost of the project at around $1.5 billion, with one report claiming that the development was to be completed in 2013.

Additional reporting by May Tithara


  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,