Government Backtracks on 30 Hectares of Boeng Tamok Allocations

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Phnom Penh’s Tamok lake on May 20, 2020 (Hun Sirivadh/VOD)

Two state land-swap deals involving a notorious tycoon and the allocation of 30 hectares of Boeng Tamok lake land for infilling were invalidated by a Council of Ministers order dated Monday.

The order, signed by secretary of state Hing Thoraksy, canceled four directives previously put forward by the cabinet.

The allocation of 15 hectares of Boeng Tamok lake for three state institutions, including the Human Rights Committee, as well as 15 more hectares granted to the Rural Development Ministry were invalidated.

The order also canceled previously undisclosed swaps of 15 hectares from the same three institutions for 1 hectare in Kandal province owned by tycoon Khun Sea’s TP Moral Group, and 15 hectares of the Rural Development Ministry for an unspecified plot of TP Moral’s.

The order did not specify whether the state land being swapped was the Boeng Tamok plots, though it said that TP Moral’s 1 hectare was in Takhmao city’s Prek Hou commune.

Thoraksy, who signed the order, declined to elaborate. “Brother, look at the letter. It’s written clearly and there’s no need to explain,” he said.

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said the government was looking out for the people.

“There are a lot of things that have been invalidated after a re-examination,” Siphan said. “The invalidation is to protect the public interest, since the public interest is greater than the state’s private interest.”

Sea is behind the ongoing infilling of 70 hectares of the Mekong River for a shopping and condominium complex. In 2013, a man in a dispute with Sea filed court complaints about harassment, including having a bag containing three deadly cobras thrown into his house through a window.

The 3,239-hectare Boeng Tamok has seen a series of allocations over the past year, and lines of trucks have been pouring sand into what is considered one of the capital’s “last lakes.” The biggest allocation has been nearly 300 hectares for a military base.

Residents living around the lake have faced eviction. One of them, Phorn Sokhum, said there were nearly 200 people appealing to get land titles since they had lived there for many years.

“We request Samdech to think about his people more, and not make his people cry all over the place,” Sokhum said, using an honorific for Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Because in our country we have seen many tears over land issues and it is endless,” he added.

The Monday order also said the Phnom Penh land management department would move to the Rural Development Ministry, which would in turn move into the current Land Management Ministry building.

The Human Rights Committee, National Committee for Disaster Management and Mine Action Authority would move to the Mines and Energy Ministry, which would go to the Transport Ministry, which would get a new location on Chea Sophara Road, it said.

Phnom Penh land management department director Sarin Vanna said he knew there were upcoming moves but did not know what would happen to his current building once the department moved out.

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