ABOUT 200 residents from seven villages in the Boeung Kak lakeside area participated in a protest at Phnom Penh’s “Freedom Park” yesterday, calling for a Chinese firm to intervene in a dispute with the local company that is developing the lake.
Protesters also appealed to local officials and numerous foreign governments to help resolve the ongoing dispute, which has forced hundreds of families out of their homes.
Shukaku Inc, a company owned by Cambodian People’s Party senator Lao Meng Khin, is filling in the lake to make way for a 133-hectare housing and commercial development, which housing rights advocates say will displace more than 4,000 families.
Dozens of villagers’ homes have been submerged in sand since the development began, and hundreds of residents say they have not been offered adequate compensation.
Protesters yesterday held up banners bearing the name of the Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co, a Chinese company that has reportedly invested tens of millions of dollars in the Boeung Kak lakeside development.
The China angle
The Post last week reported that the state-owned firm signed in July an agreement with two local companies, including Shukaku, to develop the lake.
According to Chinese-language news reports, the Boeung Kak development was included in a US$3 billion package of investment deals that also included a 750-megawatt power station in Sihanoukville and the exploration of bauxite in Mondulkiri.
The Chinese reports reveal that Hung Jun’s lake development agreement also involved the Cambodia International Investment Development Group, which also appears to be linked to Senator Lao Meng Khin.
According to a government investment literature available online, the firm runs a special economic zone in Sihanoukville, with Lao Meng Khin listed as the “zone developer”.
Ly Mom, a representative of the protesters, used a louspeaker yesterday to call on the Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co to push Shukaku to negotiate a resolution with the villagers.
“We are not against the development, we are just demanding a proper and transparent solution,” she said.
Protesters also waved flags from countries including the United States, Australia and Vietnam, in a bid to draw attention from officials at embassies in Phnom Penh.
Representatives of Shukaku Inc could not be reached for comment yesterday.