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Last orders at the lakeside?

Last orders at the lakeside?

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With developers closing in, the future of Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake is in doubt, but business owners say no one has told them what the future holds

HENG CHIVOAN

The lakeside area in Phnom Penh is a favourite of low-budget travellers, but its days are numbered and business owners are not happy about their pending eviction.

OWNERS of businesses in Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lakeside district say that they are being kept in the dark about the impending development of the area, despite municipal officials saying the project could begin as early as next month.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheat Vong told the Post Tuesday that the filling-in of the lake will begin in September and be finished within 18 months.

The planned 133-hectare commercial and housing development is likely to force the closure of hundreds of local businesses in the bar-lined "lakeside" district.

"We don't have any information about [the project]," said Pouv Pensareth, manager of the Lazy Gecko bar. "People don't know exactly what will happen."

He said that the closure of the tourist district will deprive many business owners of their livelihood.

Ean Vichet, the owner of Murphy's Lakeside Bar, said that he had no idea when he would be evicted, or what would happen to the district's businesses.

"I am the owner of the bar but not the owner of the building. So I have no idea what they're going to do with this area," he said, adding that the tourist industry supported many people in addition to bar and hotel owners. "Tourism means that there is work for many people here," he said. "I have no idea where they're going to go if we're evicted."

These people must understand that the lake belongs To the state.

According to Pa Socheat Vong, the lake and surrounding land is owned by the government and has been illegally occupied by many lakeside residents.
"These people must understand that the lake belongs to the state," he said, adding that residents could accept relocation, on-site replacement housing or US$10,000 cash in compensation for leaving. But lakeside business owners have rejected the offer, saying their market value was much greater.

Compensation claims

Khea Samy, owner of the five-story Grand View Guesthouse at Boeung Kak, said that he paid $200,000 to build the hotel in 2001.

"I demand $3,000 to $3,500 per square metre, otherwise I will oppose eviction to the end," he said.

Khea Samy said he had no land title, but had lived on the land since 1990, which is long enough to enable him to claim ownership under the "possessory rights" clause of the Kingdom's 2001 Land Law.

Roza Guesthouse owner Ty Sarun said she and 12 family members have occupied her property since 1983 and although they also lack a land title, she said they have invested $100,000 and expect fair compensation from the government.

"We aren't demanding much compensation, but I want a fair solution," she said.

Sung Bonna, president of the Bonna Realty Group, said that the market value of undeveloped lakeside land was around $800-$1,000 per square metre, but confirmed that developed lots could fetch over $2,000.

"It is possible that once [the land] is developed it will be very valuable. It's a prime location," he said.

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