80 Families at Lake Development Protest Delayed Land Titles

2 min read
Trucks lined up, waiting to drop off sand near Boeng Choeng Ek in 2020 (STT)

Representatives of about 80 families living around southern Phnom Penh’s major lake development say they fear eviction as sandfilling is nearing their houses and they have yet to receive the land titles promised to them by authorities.

The development, being built on the Boeng Tompun and Choeung Ek wetlands spanning 1,500 hectares, are slated to be home to prominent projects including Aeon Mall, Chip Mong Land villas and mall, Urban Village condominiums, the International School of Phnom Penh and the prime minister’s daughter Hun Mana’s Orkide Villa. But the development is displacing local fishers and residents, and the U.N. warned a year and a half ago that 1,000 families’ homes and livelihoods were under threat.

In 2020, the Land Ministry issued a letter to Phnom Penh City Hall to issue land titles for families in a community in Dangkao district’s Choeung Ek commune, but around 40 representatives gathered outside Phnom Penh City Hall on Wednesday protesting that they had yet to receive them.

“We are scared and worried because in front of us it’s already filled up. We are in the middle. If anything happens, we don’t know where to live. So we want them to help us. We don’t have a land title and have only small land,” said resident Vong Theara.

(European Space Agency)

Chek Soknai said she had lived in the village since 1982, and residents lived on plots only about 6 meters on each size and grew vegetables and fished the lake. Many also worked as construction and factory workers, Soknai said.

“When we have our land title we will feel comfortable about living. But when we don’t have one, we fear living there. We fear forced evictions, losing our livelihoods. In this place we have everything to make a living,” she said.

Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng and spokesman Met Measpeakdey declined to comment.

Even as residents fear eviction, the government has continued to transfer state land in the area to the country’s elite, including a strip on the wetlands’ northern edge to National Assembly lawmaker Lork Huor in documents made public this week.

Cambodia Center for Human Rights coordinator Van Sophat said that without land titles, residents faced likely eviction. Sahmakum Teang Tnaut project manager Seang Mouylai said the development was causing social injustice.

“The people have been living there for a long time already around the lake area and face eviction and threats to leave their place, and [the state] instead gives those places to powerful rich people,” Mouylai said.

Environmentalists have also warned of increased flood risks due to the filling of the wetlands.

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