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Lake Talks Fail Between Residents, City Officials

In late 2010, Shukaku, Inc., continues to pump fill into Beoung Kak lake, inundating occupied homes as it moves towards building a residential and business district.

City officials and residents fearful of eviction failed to reach an agreement on Friday over the Boeung Kak lake development, living families in continued doubt over whether they will eventually be evicted.

Seven Phnom Penh officials led by Deputy Governor Noun Someth sat with 35 lake residents to discuss options, following multiple demonstrations in recent weeks and the findings of a World Bank investigation that faulted a land-titling program for failing the residents.

Lake residents say they want to stay on 15 hectares of land in the 133-hectare commercial development by Shukaku Erdos Hongjun rather than take buyouts or move to an inferior location—or to leave the area at all while it is developed.

City officials say the development of the area requires them to remove their houses so that new ones can be built, after which they can return. However, residents say they will not leave their current homes in the area until new ones are built they can move into.

The core disagreement left both sides at loggerheads on Friday, despite increased calls from city officials that residents settle with the developer or face penalty of law and the destruction of their homes without compensation.

The meeting follows the release of investigation results from the World Bank on Wednesday that found the Bank’s Phnom Penh office had failed to follow a land-titling plan that could have prevented many evictions from the lake area.

In a statement Friday, the Ministry of Land Management reiterated the government’s position that the lakeside residents were not among those who should have received titles under the World Bank program.