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Lake Residents Say Land Dispute Likely to Continue

The residents of the Boeung Kak lake area 'speak out' and tell us of the ongoing dispute between the site residents and Shukaku, Inc., on 'Hello VOA' on Thursday.

Residents of the Boeung Kak lake area in Phnom Penh, who have been battling developers since 2008, say they have two acceptable solutions to the land impasse.

A representative of the residents of all seven villagers in a dispute with Shukaku, Inc., over compensation for the land, says they will accept a buyout of $1,500 per square meter for their homes, or, failing that, the allotment of a total 15 hectares of the development for themselves.

Shukaku is hoping to build a commercial and residential center on 133 hectares under a 99-year lease, after it fills in Boeung Kak lake, the act of which has steadily been flooding obstinate families from their homes in recent weeks.

Tep Vanny, a representative of the residents there, told “Hello VOA” on Thursday that authorities and the developer have refused to find a compromise, while their former offers of buyouts are too low.

“They don't know any strategies to minimize the dispute, and until today we've protested without solution,” Tep Vanny said.

The company has given three options to the people: a buyout of $8,000; a resettlement home 25 kilometers outside Phnom Penh; or the choice to come back when the development is finished to draw for a house.

However, land laws stipulate that settlement issues must be addressed before development can go forward, said Sia Phirum, a director of the Human Rights Task Force, as a second guest on “Hello VOA.”

More than 1,000 of 4,000 families have already been evicted or have moved from the site, in what Sia Phirum called a major violation of land rights. People need more than just shelter, he said, but they have a right to safety, to having a place to eat, a place for assembly, and a clean environment, he said.

“We were legally living here before the land law was passed, we are the owners, and we have the right to demand our price for satisfaction,” Tep Vanny said. “Without a solution, we will stay until death at Boeung Kak and we absolutely will not leave.”

The number of evictions of people from valuable land had made “development” a word mistrusted by people, she said.

“I would like to say that wherever there is development, it is tearful,” she said. “Today it is Boeung Kak, but tomorrow there will be other tearful places like Boeung Kak.”