Residents living nearby Phnom Penh’s Tamoak Lake say they will refuse to remove their homes from the area as instructed unless government authorities agree to compensate them in advance — rather than later, as promised.
In June 2018, the government issued a decision to “cut” 20 hectares off the lake in the city’s northern Prek Pnov district to be filled in and developed as a market and car park. Tamoak Lake is one of the few remaining large lakes in Phnom Penh.
The government had in February 2016 issued a sub-decree classifying some 3,239 hectares of the the lake area as state property due to its public use as a basin storing wastewater and storm water from Phnom Penh.
Ros Chanthy, 56, said she represented three families living nearby the lake and told VOD on Tuesday that the Prek Phnov district governor Sok Sambath on May 8 ordered them to remove their houses and wait for a “resolution” at a later time.
“They told me to submit a request to Prek Phnov district,” Chanthy said. “They said that they will find solution for me alone and asked me to remove [the house] and wait for solution. I dare not remove — I am afraid that after removing, I will not get the money and when we remove it, we do not know where else to live.”
Chanthy said that the three families had lived there since 1982 and made a meager income by growing lotus flowers on the lake and fishing. She said they had already been impacted by the filling in of the lake and had asked for $5,000 in compensation in order to leave the area and find a new home elsewhere.
Otherwise, she said, the families would not leave the area — even if those filling in the land dump land around and in their houses and make it inhospitable.
Sambath, the district governor, could not be reached for comment. Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey declined to comment, saying he was unaware of the situation being faced by those living around Tamoak Lake.
He said the families had not registered any complaints with district or municipal authorities. “What do they want? What is their intention?” Meas Pheakdey said.
“Submit a request and meet with us to discuss it.”
Soeung Sen Karona, a spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, said that he understood the people had not agreed to leave were worried the authorities would treat them like other people who have been involved in land disputes.
He urged the authorities to quickly find a solution for the families.
“Implementing the plan first and finding a solution later will make the issue of people having land disputes become chronic, and make it hard to clearly solve,” Sen Karona said. “Sometimes there is no real intention to find a resolution.”
“We think the authorities should find a solution first,” he added.
According to housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, there are a total of 19 villages falling inside five communes over two districts — Prek Phnov and Sen Sok — around Tamoak lake. The group says that the people living around the lake rely mostly on small rice plots, crops and fishing around the lake to survive.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)