In February 2007, the Municipality of Phnom Penh granted a 99-year lease to the private developer Shukaku Inc. for 133 hectares of prime city-centre real estate in the capital’s Daun Penh district. The area included Boeung Kok lake, one of the few remaining natural lakes in the city, and home to some 20,000 people. Shukaku Inc. reportedly paid US$79 million for the land.
Soon after, the company poisoned the morning glory many of the residents were growing on the lake as their livelihoods. In August 2008, the Government changed the status of the land from state public to state private land. Adequate reasons for this change of status were not provided and the change in fact rendered the Shukaku lease null and void. Within days filling of the lake began – using sand drawn up from the Mekong. Residents were given three options: cash compensation of US$8500, a plot in Damnak Troyung relocation site along with US$500 cash, or on-site re-development, but only after five years of temporary residence in a relocation site. Despite intimidation and violence against them, the residents protested. They appealed to to local courts, the government, the company, the Prime Minister, and even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Nothing worked. With increasingly flooded and uninhabitable homes, more and more residents started succumbing to the pressure. In most cases, they left poorer futures having signed away land and property worth tens of thousands of dollars for US$8000 and some transportation costs. This publication documents some of the (former) residents stories.
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