Boeung Kak Lake

What is affected
Housing private
Land Social/public
Land Private
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 01 December 2010
Region A [ Asia ]
Country Cambodia
Location Boeung Kak Lake

Affected persons

Total 1500
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution

Forced eviction
Land losses

- Land area (square meters)

- Total value
Housing losses
- Number of homes 3000
- Total value €

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative

Cambodia`s land-grab `cancer` keeps spreading

By Michelle Fitzpatrick (AFP) – Dec 18, 2010

PHNOM PENH — Standing knee-deep in dirty water, 60-year-old Men Chhoeuy uses a crowbar to dismantle his small wooden house on the edge of a lake in the Cambodian capital. He is the latest resident to give up the fight against a private company accused of spewing sand into lakeside homes as it fills in the 130-hectare (320-acre) site to make way for high-rise buildings and shopping centres. Many neighbours have already left, said Men Chhoeuy as he continued his demolition work on the northern edge of Boeung Kak lake, one of the last large open spaces left in Phnom Penh and once home to about 4,000 families. The sand-pumping has increased significantly in recent weeks and a number of homes were fully immersed in a matter of days, leaving only the tips of roofs sticking out as startled families scrambled to save what belongings they could. The message that is being sent to the remaining residents at the lake is that they should accept the compensation being offered to them or else their houses too will be buried in mud, said David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, a non-governmental organisation. The government leased the area three years ago to Shukaku Inc., a private developer headed by a ruling party politician, ignoring residents` existing land claims. Filling the lake with sand has caused water levels to rise, flooding local dwellings with slurry and creating unsanitary conditions, according to residents and rights groups. Shukaku Inc. is forcibly evicting lake residents by pumping sand and mud into their homes, Rolando Modina, regional director of the international pressure group Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), told AFP. Land disputes are a major problem in Cambodia. The communist Khmer Rouge abolished land ownership during its 1975-1979 rule and many legal documents were lost during that time and in the years of civil war that followed. Last year, the government approved a new law allowing it to seize private property for public development projects, to the dismay of activists. Land-grabbing is a cancer that is eating up Cambodia, said Pred. Forced evictions are being driven by rapid speculative investment in the Cambodian real estate market, coupled with endemic corruption and the absence of rule of law, he added. The urban poor are being driven from their homes in Phnom Penh, which is becoming an exclusive domain of the wealthy. The capital is undergoing heavy development after projects stalled during the global financial crisis. In the countryside, meanwhile, farming land has been confiscated on numerous occasions and granted to large developers such as sugar and rubber companies. In 2009 alone, at least 26 cases of mass evictions displaced approximately 27,000 people across the country, according to a UN report released in September. The manner in which land is managed and used by the government for various purposes continues to be a major problem. Land-grabbing by people in positions of power seems to be a common occurrence, it said. Shukaku has offered some lake dwellers, though not all, financial compensation of 1,500 to 8,500 US dollars for vacating the site, but critics say the money is not enough. I have to accept this money because my home is flooding, Men Chhoeuy said of the 8,000 US dollars he will split with the three other families who shared his home. I don`t know where to go now. With this money we can`t do anything. People are leaving the lake every day but Pred estimates there are still some 1,500 to 2,000 families remaining, many of whom are poor and have nowhere else to go. Shukaku, which was granted a 99-year lease for the development project, declined to comment. Please talk to the government, company spokesman Lao Vann told AFP. We don`t know anything... We are allowed by the state to develop (the area). Sok Sambath, the governor of the city`s Daunh Penh district, which includes the lake, described the development as a good thing for the area and said residents were accepting compensation. Many of the people living on and around the lake settled or returned there in the 1980s after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Under Cambodian law, a person who has lived somewhere for five years or more without dispute has rights to that land, but there have been problems in implementing this law properly, said the UN report. Lake dwellers have in recent months organised dozens of demonstrations but their protests fell on deaf ears and they were usually quickly dispersed by police. It`s not just the residents who are complaining. Until recently, the eastern edge of Boeung Kak lake was a popular tourist stretch, with numerous guesthouses and bars lining the shore. The lake now resembles a large sand dune and has lost its allure. Tourists are staying away and hotels are closing. Five months ago this was a bustling, thriving area. Now, it`s dead calm, said Harry Bongers, who for the last seven years has been running the Simon`s II guesthouse. I`ve made my mind up already, I`m going to close in one month, the 59-year-old Dutchman said.

Source: See update at:

The World Bank said Tuesday it will stop loaning money to Cambodia until the government reaches a deal with thousands of residents who are under threat of eviction in a huge development project. Country director Annette Dixon says the World Bank has not made any loans since December and will not approve any more until Phnom Penh agrees on compensation with lakeside residents. Dixon says the bank continues to encourage the Cambodia government to reach an agreement to provide on-site housing for the remaining residents of Boeung Kak Lake. Nobody at the bank was available for further comment. Two years ago, the Boeung Kak lake area in central Phnom Penh was home to 4,000 families. Now just 1,000 are left and workers have nearly finished filling the lake with sand. Rights groups say the development has proceeded illegally from the start. They say people have been evicted without proper compensation and the threat of violence by the authorities has seldom been far away. For years, lakeside residents tried to get land title documents from the local authorities in a program funded by the World Bank. While hundreds of thousands of other Cambodians obtained land titles, residents at the lake did not. Earlier this year the bank admitted it had let down the residents and quietly informed Phnom Penh to resolve the issue. If not, the bank said it would reconsider its programs in Cambodia. Today’s statement indicates the bank has stuck by that pledge. Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force a local organization that advises lakeside residents of their rights, says local officials started meeting with residents, earlier this year, and the sides have made some progress. “We found that some parts, some points are moving forward and some parts are not moving forward, Phearnum says. It seems to be like slowly and people still fear concern about the forced eviction, because during the land survey also the company, they trying to lobby or threaten people to move out with the small compensation. This is the way that some part is a good result and some part is not a good result. But the community they have strong solidarity.” Cambodia is developing fast and land prices have sharply risen in recent years. Critics say that has caused a wave of land grabbing, driving tens of thousands from their homes. The capital has changed fast, too. In the past decade, slums have been cleared and their residents relocated outside the city limits. High-rises and apartment blocks are now common. The companies behind the Boeung Kak development are very well-connected. One is owned by a senator from the ruling Cambodian People`s Party; the other is a firm from China, a nation that has pumped billions into Cambodia in recent years. Cambodian officials say they are not concerned by the bank’s position. Spokesman Phay Siphan says the World Bank has exceeded its mandate in insisting that Phnom Penh abide by such conditions. Phay Siphan says the government’s only responsibility to the World Bank is to repay monies it has borrowed, and that conditions on one loan should not affect any others. Sia Phearum, of the Human Rights Task Force, stresses that lakeside residents want the bank to resume lending, once a solution is found. “I think if everyone talks about the Boeung Kak issue. I think the government at least they will reconsider and work more (for) improving for solving the problem of the people, of their own voters,” Phearum says. The coming weeks and months will clarify whether the bank’s ultimatum will help with finding a solution.

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