Etnhic Jarai families living in Ratanakkiri province’s Kakeo district yesterday filed a complaint with the provincial court, accusing a Vietnamese rubber company of clearing their ancestral land and filling in a lake they use for fishing and irrigation. …
Local officials say the company intends to grow rubber on the land, which is located outside the boundaries of its 8,400-hectare economic land concession. …
Aun Pheap, P.17
Ethnic Jarai families living in Ratanakkiri province’s Borkeo district have accused a Vietnamese rubber company of digging a channel to drain a lake the indigenous villagers use for fishing and irrigation, a local official and rights worker said yesterday.
Rochom Vin, Yeak Som village chief, said that since June, the Kao Su Ea Lev BM Yoy Stock company has been digging a conduit to connect Lumpok lake – which is located outside the company’s economic land concession – to the nearby O’Kantey stream, with the intention of draining and filling in the lake to grow rubber on the land. …
There were scenes of jubilation in Cambodia’s capital last month when a group of 13 imprisoned women – including a 72-year-old grandmother – was set free by an appeal court. The women were arrested in May during peaceful demonstrations against the forced eviction of thousands of families living around Boeung Kak Lake, an area in central Phnom Penh earmarked for a glitzy housing and commercial development.
The company behind the controversial development is known as Shukaku Inc, an obscure firm known to be a front for the interests of Lao Meng Khin, a leading tycoon and senator for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Two Chinese companies are also reported to be investing in the project, which has seen the lake – once ringed by a bustling community of more than 4,000 families – reduced to a massive sand bank in the center of the city. Most families have already left the site in exchange for resettlement or small cash hand-outs, but a robust protest movement continues to resist eviction. …
Kompong Thom provincial military police confiscated 29 excavators and arrested four drivers in a four-day operation ending yesterday aimed at stopping the illegal construction of reservoirs around the Tonle Sap lake, officials said.
The reservoirs, which are used to retain water for use in dry-season farming, are blamed for reducing fish populations by wiping out vital breeding areas at the edges of the lake.
Construction on them has persisted despite periodic crackdowns by authorities attempting to enforce a 2009 ban. …
Khy Sovuthy, P. 21
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday marked National Fish Day by urging the public to report anyone fishing inside the Tonle Sap conservation area he established earlier this year to help protect and revive the lake’s vital fish stocks.
“People have to dare to stand up and speak out against the people, villagers, commune chiefs and district governors who use the lots in the wrong way,” he said at an event in Kompong Cham province’s Kroch Chhmar district.
The prime minister announced the permanent cancellation of all 35 private fishing lots on the Tonle Sap in February, converting some of the lots into a conservation zone to save the lake’s wild fisheries, on which tens of thousands of subsistence fishermen depend. …
Phorn Bopha, P. 22
Boeng Kak protesters continued their fight for the release of 14 women and one man imprisoned since May 24, delivering a petition to the Senate and the Japanese Embassy on Friday that they hope will spur new intervention in the long-running land dispute.
More than 100 people—including evicted residents from the Borei Keila community—gathered outside the Senate and the nearby embassy shouting “free the 15!” Boeng Kak residents’ representative Bo Chhorvy said the imprisonment of the 15, which came after a peaceful protest against CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s real estate project at the former lake, was unlawful. …
Khy Sovuthy, P. 10
In Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district there is a 133-hectare mound of sand that was once a lake. It took nearly four years to fill Boeng Kak with that sand.
On the southern perimeter of the massive sand pit sit two large billboards. On those billboards there is CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s vision; an adventurous property project anchored by two glass and steel tower blocks, a huge water fountain and hundreds of residential units set around the water features of a land-locked marina. So far, part of that vision has been achieved: The lake is filled and thousands of residents who once lived around the area have been evicted and relocated.
But what happens now to the dusty site is anyone’s guess: The company’s offices in Phnom Penh appear to be closed. The city’s real estate agents say the property sector is so over-supplied that to embark on building at Boeng Kak would be financial madness.
And government officials don’t seem to know what will happen, or if they do, they are declining to comment. “They have all gone back to China,” said Chhay Sina, who lost her job in February as a sales supervisor for Shukaku Erdos Hongjun Property Development Co., a joint venture between Cambodian and Chinese investors, which owns the site. …
Philip Heijmans with additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey, P. 25
In order to pacify concerns that filling in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake would lead to flooding, it was claimed by officials that 10 hectares of the 90-hectare lake would be preserved to absorb heavy rainfall.
Now, four years after sand began streaming into Boeng Kak, the lake is completely dry, leaving residents and a housing rights group wondering what happened to the promised 10 hectares of water.
“They said they will keep 10 hectares of lake for a water reservoir,” Nheun Ly, a community empowerment officer for Housing Rights Task Force, said yesterday. …
Hul Reaksmey, P. 18
Over three years after Shukaku Inc started filling Boeung Kak lake with sand to make way for a CPP Senator’s massive real estate project, Google Maps has now completely erased the image of the lake, which the municipality’s year-end report says is now 95 percent full of sand.
It was not clear yesterday when or why the image was altered, but as of October 2011, the Google Map of the area still depicted the entire lake. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
“The young generation will not know Boeung Kak,” said community representative Tol Sreypeou, whose family was one of about 500 families that have received a land title at the site.
Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha said the was being filled to beautify the city. “What Google is doing concerning this issue, that’s Google’s business,” Mr. Tha said. …
Chhorn Chansy and Olesia Plokhii, P. 19
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun to explain irregularities that have taken place in the bidding process for licenses to operate fishing lots around the Tonle Sap lake.
The order was carried out after Mr Hun Sen received a report from Water Resource Minister Lim Kean Hor last week that detailed how government officials had fixed the bidding process…
Phann Ana, p.13
A villager living at Boeung Kak lake claimed yesterday that staff from Shukaku Inc, owned by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin, threatened to demolish her home if she rejected an alleged US$80,000 offer to purchase the property…
Lao Vann, deputy director-general of Shukaku Inc, yesterday denied the allegations…
(Khouth Sophak Chakrya, p.5)
Members of 34 families facing eviction from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community yesterday called on five foreign embassies and the European Union to pressure the government into granting them land titles.
They are among the 46 poor and untitled families living in Boeng Kak who have found themselves cut out of a government plan endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month to let the hundreds of families living around the former lake keep their modest homes…
Heng Mom, one of the residents, said some of the unlucky families have agreed to negotiate for compensation with the firm developing the area, CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc, in exchange for moving out…
(Chhorn Chansy, p.26)
The World Bank said on Tuesday it had stopped providing loans to Cambodia and would not resume lending until the government did something to help hundreds of families facing eviction from land around a lake in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. “The World Bank’s last loan to Cambodia was in December 2010,” Country Director Annette Dixon said in a statement. “Until an agreement is reached with the residents of Boeung Kak Lake, we do not expect to provide any new lending to Cambodia,” she said. In the past few years, the World Bank has lent Cambodia about $50-70 million annually. It has repeatedly asked for the evictions to stop. Forced evictions are a major problem in Cambodia, with an estimated 30,000 people a year driven from farmland or urban areas to make way for real estate developments or mining and agricultural projects.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty)