Petition Seeks Answers to Infilling of Another Phnom Penh Lake

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View of Tamoak Lake. Image: Khan Leakhena
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The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) petitioned the National Assembly today asking that it call up relevant public bodies to clarify the extent of the development of Boeung Tamoak, the largest remaining lake in Phnom Penh.

Twenty hectares of the lake has already been designated for infilling to create a market and car park, but the GDP said it had received information that more of the lake was under threat.

“We have seen the directive about creating the vegetable market, but the information that we have seen and learned of is more than what the directive said,” GDP president Yeng Virak told reporters after submitting the petition.

He would not detail the information he had seen, but demanded full transparency from the government about plans for the lake.

“What we are worried about are the past examples like Boeung Kak, and other lakes. They are all gone,” Virak said.

Boeung Kak, formerly the largest urban lake in Phnom Penh, was filled in for a ruling party senator’s development project around 2010, forcing violent evictions of residents along what used to be lakeshore, and creating major environmental repercussions including increased flooding.

Plans for filling in the 20 hectares of Boeung Tamoak have already caused disputes with several residents who have been served eviction notices.

The plans were approved in June last year in response to a request from Phnom Penh City Hall.

City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey denied there was any infilling beyond what the city had requested.

“[We] informed all at the beginning about the intended landfill — to do what, how much the size is, and where it is. This is old news,” Meas Pheakdey said.

“Raising their concerns is their right. There’s nothing wrong with that. They can express their worries,” he added. “But the actual explanations have already been given.”

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said the parliamentary body had accepted the GDP’s petition, and its human rights commission was now looking into it.

“I don’t know yet what action they are going to take,” Peng Long said.

The government listed Boeung Tamoak as state property in 2016 for the public use of its 3,239 hectares for storing wastewater and storm water from Phnom Penh.

According to land rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, there are 19 villages around Boeung Tamoak, making their living on the lake from rice farming, fishing and growing crops.

Virak’s GDP was formed in 2015, with prominent political analyst Kem Ley — who was murdered in a suspected hit in 2016 — among its founding members.

The party won five commune seats in 2017 and just over 1 percent of the national vote in 2018.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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