Dozens of Boeng Tamok residents staged another rally near their lakeside shacks Thursday to protest looming evictions as the lake is filled and turned into private developments.
Vast tracts of the lake have been parceled out to connected individuals and institutions, including the land management minister’s daughter and a senator’s wife. Earlier this week, residents living along the rapidly dwindling lake’s northeast clashed with district security guards as sand-filling approached their homes.
Prek Pnov district governor Sok Sambath said on Tuesday that the residents’ houses were illegal, and they would be resettled elsewhere in the village.
On Thursday, as residents gathered and held up signs on the roadside, Phorn Sokhom said 250 families had lived on the site for decades and lived off fishing and growing vegetables on the water.
“The authorities always say we live without legal permission. But the borey near here, about 400 to 500 meters away, they got a land title. I’m disappointed,” she said, referring to a gated housing development.
Prek Sophea, another resident, said community members had been threatened with lawsuits. But they didn’t want to give up their livelihoods and move to a new place where they had no work, she said.
“Please do not develop on people’s houses, on the people’s tears. We are willing to die here, but we will not accept the exchange,” Sophea said.
Village chief Mak Sim said only 20-30 families had been living in the area for decades, and the others were more recent arrivals. He declined to answer questions about evictions and resettlement. Samraong commune chief Yim Im could not be reached.
Land rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut’s program manager Em Khemram questioned why businesspeople could receive rights to develop the lake while residents were kicked out.
“The government cut it for private companies and individuals,” Khemram said. “Why are those private individuals entitled to state land? Why do these people not have the right to do business or get their livelihoods from Tamok lake? The government must balance that because people also have the right to live.”