City Clears Fish Farms Despite Tamok Lake Residents’ Protests

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Residents around Phnom Penh’s Boeng Tamok lake try to stop authorities from dismantling their fish farms on September 13, 2022, from a video posted online by a resident.

Residents around Phnom Penh’s Boeng Tamok followed authorities in their boats and protested the filling of the lake, which they said was affecting their fish farm enclosures.

The government has rapidly privatized Boeng Tamok, which is one of Phnom Penh’s last remaining large lakes. Most of these plots of land have gone to government agencies or well-connected and influential people and businesspersons.

A video shot by one of the residents and posted on Facebook shows residents in boats following a boat of police officers to a part of the river where trucks can be seen dumping rocks and dirt into the lake. Right next to the dumping, there are poles connected to nets poking out of the water and marking the location of their fish-farming enclosures.

Residents are heard yelling at dozens of local authorities and security personnel — one resident calls the officials “cold-blooded.” Others protest the filing of the lake and want it to stop till authorities can find a solution.

Residents living around the lake have requested all levels of officials to find a solution where they can continue to live by the lake and use it for their livelihood. Instead, district officials have filed a court complaint against residents for obstruction and incitement.

Phorn Sokhom, 50, said around 100 village guards, military police and other administrative authorities were out in force on Tuesday and dismantled their fish farms, and stopped the filling of the lake only after residents protested.

She added that they also dismantled shed-like structures where they stored fishing equipment.

“The authorities do not think about the people’s benefit or suffering. They think about the benefit of their own group and their clique,” she said. “People are suffering with the first issue of housing and the second issue of the loss of the place to work on because of the confiscations.”

Sea Davy, another resident of Samraong commune, said the demolition was led by new Prek Pnov district governor Thim Sam An to make way for land-filling activities.

“They said they will find a solution for people but they deploy forces to dismantle structures,” she said.

Sam An could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The demolitions come a day after residents met with Phnom Penh City Hall officials in Prek Pnov and rejected proposals to get land elsewhere, insisting they wanted a solution that permitted them to live in the same place.

Khen Sa Oy said residents were offered 4-by-18-meter plots in Samraong Tboung village on the eastern side of the lake. The residents did not want to leave, she said.

Keut Chhe, a City Hall spokesperson, said he did not attend the meeting and could not comment on what was discussed but said some residents were living illegally along Street 151, which skirts the lake, and a widening of the road would require them to move.

Resident Sokhom, who was also at the Monday meeting, said there was enough space for her to move her home away from the street, giving authorities around 50 meters more to develop.

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