Giant excavators from a Phnom Penh development company began tearing down at least eight houses Monday morning, with at least 100 families more awaiting the same fate, as an ongoing dispute over Boeung Kak lake is building to its conclusion.
The developer, Shukaku, Inc., is embroiled in an ongoing land dispute with families around the lake, where the company is planning a real estate investment worth nearly $80 million. It has been filling the lake with sand, and, villagers say, flooding people from their homes who refuse to make way.
A number of families around the lake where the development is planned have refused to take a buyout from the company or to move to another location. They say they have made official complaints to the city without resolution.
On Monday, the Shukaku excavators began the destruction in Village One, Sras Chok commune, in Daun Penh district, where company officials say they want to begin construction soon.
The two excavators arrived at around 10 am and began pulling the houses apart, as the families shouted for them to stop and as about 50 intervention police stood by.
Meanwhile, Shukaku has continued to pump sand and mud into the lake, which has begun flooding more houses in Village One.
Homeowners tried to use signboards of the Cambodian People’s Party—complete with the faces of Prime Minister Hun Sen and party leaders Chea Sim and Heng Samrin—to stop the flow of dredge. Police confiscated three of those signs Monday morning.
In protest, villagers also played a Hun Sen speech over a loudspeaker in which the premier said the government would protect families adversely affected by development.
A handful of villagers also lit joss sticks and stuck them in the sand while praying ill for Shukaku’s leaders.
Shukaku, which is owned by CPP Senator Lav Meng Khin, has been filling the lake since 2008. It hopes to fill and ultimately develop the 130-hectare lake into a business and residential district under a 99-year lease from the city.
The company wants to begin construction at Village One, which is home to more than 100 families. Representatives of the families say they need compensation based on the market value of their homes before they leave.
Shukaku says those whose houses are in the way of the development will receive $8,000 to rebuild elsewhere.