More than 30 families living on Phnom Penh’s Boeng Samrong scuffled with district authorities as officials dismantled houses around the lake.
The area, in the northern Prek Pnov district between Boeng Tamok and the Tonle Sap river, is slated for development by the local administration.
Neth Sony, a mother of five children, said on Friday that two people had been injured as Prek Pnov district authorities began to dismantle some of the houses.
“My son just took a photo of him. He was pushed down and wounded, and I was pushed into the mud,” she said. “Another woman had her hair pulled when she tried to take back her phone.”
On December 28, the Prek Pnov district administration issued a final warning to nine families who had not accepted a land deal offered to them. They were told to accept the deal and dismantle their homes between December 29 and January 4. On Friday, residents said there were 23 other protesting families who had not been recognized as legitimate residents.
Sim Sothorn, director of the district administration, said 108 families were offered a plot of land because Phnom Penh City Hall wanted to develop public parks and roads on the lake, but nine families still had not accepted the deal.
Sothon said the citizens resisting the demolition of their homes had no legal claim to land on the lake, and the city was trying to “make their lives better” by providing land and infrastructure.
“Citizens who have not yet accepted this policy, they always exaggerate the truth, always attacking the Prek Pnov district authorities by saying that [authorities] violate the rights of the people … it is not true, [and] even now they refuse,” he said.
The protesting family members defended their claims, saying they had long lived around the lake.
Ros Yean, 52, said her family had been offered a 4.2-by-18 square meter plot of land in exchange for the Boeng Samrong land she had occupied since 1996. However, she refused the authorities’ offer, saying she would not be able to make a living off the new plot.
“I asked him to settle for only $30,000 to find a place for us near a factory, where we can sell food to feed the family,” she said.
Boeng Samrong spanned about 5.15 square km in 2003, but shrank to 2.8 square km by 2018 because of sand filling, according to Sahmakum Teang Tnaut’s 2019 report on Phnom Penh’s “Last Lakes.” The government reclassified 2.36 square kilometers of remaining lake from public property to state private in a sub-decree in April 2019.
In 2013 and 2014, the lake’s residents accused a company called Lay Ngy of filling the then-protected lake with sand dredged from the Tonle Sap river, though the company appears to be no longer registered with the Commerce Ministry.
On another lake in Prek Pnov district, the government last week decided to revoke 20 hectares of Boeng Tamok lake from two private individuals. The sub-decree, dated January 13, canceled a previous sub-decree from December, which granted part of the lake to Lon Hak and Chhun Chanthy.
The same January sub-decree also voided a decision to turn 1.5 hectares in a separate area in Daun Penh district into a military sub-headquarters.
Earlier this month, the Council of Ministers also voided sub-decrees granting 30 hectares of Boeng Tamok for construction of three government buildings.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)