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Lake Area Evictees Protest at City Hall

More than 100 people from the Boeung Kak lake area of Phnom Penh protested in front of Phnom Penh City Hall Monday, claiming development of the area was continuing before they had been properly compensated for living.

The residents said the Shukaku, Inc., development company had already begun filling the lake, starting from April.

Protester Huon Sopha, 42, said if the company continues to fill the lake, its rising water level will cause her house to collapse. Shukaku must stop filling the lake, she said, as most people living around it disagreed with a municipal moving policy.

Only about 400 of a total 4,000 families around the lake have accepted a company buyout of $8,000 per family to leave.

Thon Yon, a 60-year-old lake resident, said Monday she would not accept $8,000. Her house should be compensated according to current real estate prices, between $60,000 and $70,000, she said.

Shukaku was not taking into account the current prices or the size of each house, she said.

In April 2007, Phnom Penh signed an agreement with Shukaku to develop 43 hectares of land around the lake, in a 99-year lease worth $79 million.

In April 2008, Shukaku began filling the 90-hectare lake, and residents said earlier this year they feared they would be moved off their land after July's election.

Critics have also said the city's drainage will be affected by the filling of the lake, and people who depend on the lake's water lilies for their livelihood will be affected. Both Amnesty International and the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions have urged the project be stopped to ensure the rights of the residents, calling the project "in breach of both Cambodian and international law."

Soun Rindy, Phnom Penh Municipality chief of cabinet, said Monday the request of the protesters was under consideration.

Shukaku representatives could not be reached for comment.

Pen Raingsey, who works for the non-government group Resettlement Action Network, said Monday the city and the developer should not give only one choice to the lake residents, many of whom are legal residents and should get proper compensation for their eviction.

A representative of the lake residents, Ros Polrith, said city officials had not provided an immediate resolution but had promised to respond next week.