DOZENS of families from the city’s Boeung Kak lake-side began dismantling their homes over the weekend, as creeping flood-waters forced them into accepting what they have described as “inadequate” government compensation payments.
“The compensation amount is not adequate, but I accepted the money to move because I am afraid that if we continued to live here we would get nothing,” said Thoun Sophoun, a 51-year-old lakeside resident who dismantled his home in Village 22 yesterday.
He said he was given US$470 after registering to relocate and was told he would receive an additional $8,000 after dismantling his home.
Frustrated by flooding and unsanitary living conditions, other lakeside residents could be seen dismantling their homes, often working in calf-deep, polluted water.
“My health gets worse every day because there is polluted water flooding my house. It is a difficult life for us,” said Im Trop, 64, a resident of Village 2.
Displaced by development
Residents blame the recent flooding on heavy rains, poor drainage and recently renewed efforts by local developer Shukaku Inc to fill in the lake. Shukaku is planning a 133-hectare housing and commercial development on the site.
Housing rights groups estimate that more than 4,000 families will be displaced by the controversial project.
Chhay Thirith, the chief of Srah Chak commune, said on Friday that a total of 1,256 residents have accepted compensation packages and left the development zone since 2008. An additional 400 families have recently agreed to relocate and are waiting for their paperwork to be processed by City Hall, he said.
But residents said yesterday that the authorities’ statistics were inflated.
“Just last week I met with representatives from all the affected villages, and less than 100 new families have registered for compensation,” said Be Pharom, a Village 22 representative. Twenty new families had registered for compensation packages this weekend, she said, and 13 families had pulled down their homes in Villages 6 and 22.
Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that by last Friday 67 new families had agreed to move “because they have no patience to live in bad pollution and a bad environment”.
“The people don’t like the compensation offer, but they have no choice,” he said. “There is no chance to negotiate.”
Neup Ly, a community empowerment officer at HRTF, said that according to a Srah Chak commune census, only about 900 families had left the lakeside since 2008. He said that the flooding caused by the filling of the lake was one strategy used by Shukaku to “force residents to accept inadequate compensation”.
Chhay Thirith said that Shukaku would resolve the drainage problem within a week.
“The company is finishing a 3-metre-wide water pump so that water will flow faster and soon take water out of residents’ homes,” he said.
Boeung Kak lakeside residents have vowed to continue protesting if the area is not drained by this Friday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY WILL BAXTER