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Lake Residents Welcome World Bank Fund Freeze

This photo taken July 11, 2011 shows an overview of Boeung Kak, Phnom Penh's largest lake full of sand where thousands of residents in the area face eviction. The World Bank on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, suspended further loans to Cambodia until its governmen

Representatives of residents at the contentious Boeung Kak lake development site say the World Bank’s announcement it was freezing funding to Cambodia marks a major push for a resolution to the impasse.

The World Bank has said it will not release any more funding to Cambodia until government authorities find a way to reconcile a dispute between thousands of families and a development company headed by a ruling-party senator.

Residents say they want parcels of land on the 133-hectare development instead of buyout or resettlement offers they say are inadequate.

“People are so happy, and they hope that they will get houses,” said Non Sokheng, a representative of the villagers who was a guest on “Hello VOA” last week. “I also hope that assistance will continue to flow into Cambodia again after the issue over land conflict at Boeung Kak is completed.”

Tep Vanny, another representative who spoke on “Hello VOA,” said he hoped the government will work with the World Bank to resolve the problem.

“I believe the Cambodian government will show its spectacular ability, as a model for Cambodia’s development,” he said.

Some 4,000 families are expected to be pushed from the Phnom Penh area of the lake, which has been filled in almost to completion by Shukaku, Inc. The municipality has refused multiple requests from residents who want 4-meter-by-16-meter plots of land on the commercial and residential development site.

Residents have protested on multiple occasions in the neighborhood or in front of City Hall. Many of those protests have been met with violent force from police and other authorities.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the government is seeking an explanation from the World Bank for the frozen funds, which he called a “violation” of agreements between the government and the bank.

“We will solve it in a legal way,” he said.