The fear of terrorism and the ineffective control of foreign tourists, as well as internal migrants, are all driving the development of the Boeung Kak lake area, officials said recently.
The Cambodian government hopes to bring modern development to the area, to prevent chaotic settlement in the capital, officials said.
“We need to strengthen the security issue and develop modernization construction in Boeung Kak for easily monitoring security,” Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheathvong told VOA Khmer. “There are many complicated security problems for those coming in and those going out, without good security control.”
Phnom Penh has leased the land to developer Shukaku, Inc., in a $79 million deal, but residents say they are not being paid a fair price to leave the lake homes.
“We knew terrorists have easily hidden in there, like CFF and JI terrorist leader Hambali,” he said, referring the Cambodian Freedom fighters and the leader of the Southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiyah. “If we cannot properly control this area, it will create a security problem for Phnom Penh in the future.”
Members of the CFF came from the area to attack government forces in Phnom Penh in November 2000, and Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, reportedly stayed in the area prior to his arrest in Bangkok in 2003, following the 2002 Bali bombings carried out by JI.
Critics say city government and developers are neglecting the interests of Boeung Kak villagers as they move to clear the area of the makeshift homes jutting over the lake.
“Safety and people’s living are very important issues, but Boeung Kak development must provide for the very important interests of Boeung Kak villagers, or the people’s interest will be lost,” said Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party, which is competing in July’s general elections.
Be Pharum, Boeung Kak villager, said residents supported development.
“But we request that the government find a proper resolution for Boeung Kak villagers, to avoid the suffering with the development like people in Sambok Chap, Koh Pich…in Phnom Penh.”
Phan Sithan, coordinator of NGO Forum on Cambodia, acknowledged that the area was important for security.
“But the people’s living is also an important part of development,” he said.
The government must “seriously consider” the relationship between security and people’s livelihoods, he said.