Money, new housing offered to those facing eviction by lakeside development project, but many say it is not enough for them to move
SECRET LAKE PLAN
In February 2007, the municipal government signed a US$79 million leasehold agreement with Shukaku Inc to fill Boeung Kak lake and develop its surroundings. NGO Bridges Across Borders expects 4,000 lakeside families will be affected by the project.
PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema met Monday with villagers from 450 local families likely to be displaced by the reclamation of Boeung Kak lake, reassuring them they would receive adequate compensation after their eviction.
Municipal officials told the Post last week that the draining of the lake will begin as early as next month, the first stage in the construction of a 133-hectare commercial and housing project by local developer Shukaku Inc.
The families, who live in floating houses on the lake, will be the first Boeung Kak residents evicted to make way for the project.
I accepted a house because i COULDN’T SURVIVE WITH SUCH A SMALL AMOUNT.
At the meeting, Kep Chuktema said that the lake is polluted and would create health problems for those living there. "[But] it is not an excuse for the municipality to tell you that the water is polluted and then to evict you," he said. "Boeung Kak must have development."
250 families have agreed to accept relocation to Damnak Trayoeng village in Dangkor district, while another 200 have opted for $8,000 cash compensation. But some villagers questioned the amount, asking that the company provide up to $13,000 to aid in their relocation, while others refused the compensation outright.
Villager Kim Sopheap agreed to accept replacement housing but asked whether she could get an extra $5,000 to repair a house at Damnak Trayoeng. "I am happy to move, but I want to make sure that we get a land title," Sopheap added.
Nim Davy said the $8,000 offered by the company was not nearly enough. "I chose to accept a house because I couldn't survive with such a small amount of money," she said.
David Pred, country director of the legal NGO Bridges Across Borders, said the government has a responsibility to provide adequate replacement housing for evictees.
"The Cambodian authorities are legally responsible to ensure its citizens have adequate housing. And if it's going to deprive them of their homes, it has a moral responsibility to provide them with an alternative," he said, adding that the secretive nature of the project did not inspire confidence.
"It's been very difficult for anybody to get clear information about this project," he said.
But Kep Chuktema rejected calls for greater compensation, saying that the villagers' requests were "too high".