A scuffle with residents breaks out as police and Shukaku workers try to remove people’s property
Sam Anita, 37, has been living happily in the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh, together with her brother and his family since 1993. But things are about to change as Anita’s family is one of some 4,000 lakeside households facing eviction and the destruction of their homes. However, she says she’s going nowhere without a fight. “The authorities and an investment company are going to destroy my house soon. But I am not leaving. I want a proper compensation,” said Anita, a Catholic who works as a secretary for the Catholic Church’s national committee for liturgy. The Boeung Kak community is a victim of Cambodia’s booming economy, thanks to a large extent to feverish investment from companies around the East Asia region. In 2007, the Cambodian government granted a US$3-billion concession to Shukaku Inc., a local investment company to jointly develop a 130-hectare area around Boeung Kak with a Chinese company. The urban development project means the existing community has to go. Residents say they have faced intimidation and some homes have already been demolished. Anita says she does not oppose investment projects, “But we must get reasonable compensation.” She says residents have three choices: relocate 25 kilometers away, wait for new housing to be constructed nearby at an unspecified time, or receive US$8,000 in compensation.
| An aerial view of the lake area from a skyscraper |
“How can I go to work from 25 kilometers away, in a place without electricity and clean water? If I choose to wait here, where is my family going to stay in the meantime? And if we take the money, how can we buy a new home with that amount?” she said with tears in her eyes. Local people say land in the area now costs up to US$1,500 per square meter. On Jan. 14, 50 workers from Shukaku, together with police tried to forcibly evict 20 households. Catholic photo-journalist Sovan Philong was slightly injured in the scuffle and had his two cameras confiscated. He only got them back after being forced to delete the photos he had taken. “It was the most shocking experience I have had as a photo-journalist,” said Philong. Related report ‘Mixed feelings’ on Chinese trade stir youth Philippine Church helps farmers fight eviction Thousands homeless in Assam eviction drive