A man who lives along the edge of Boeung Trabek lake in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district tosses a tyre onto a fire during a protest. About 50 Boeung Trabek residents turned out to protest after officials started digging a canal through their farmland, destroying various crops, including morning glory. Residents say that 153 families will be affected by the canal.
Residents of the capital’s Boeung Trabek lakeside gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Phnom Penh before returning home and burning tyres near the lake to protest against the alleged loss of their farmland to a drainage project.
Oen Sothon, a village representative from Chamkarmon district’s Phsar Doeum Thkov commune, said 153 families had lost access to their farmland after 50 police officers set up a blockade in the area to protect the project.
“They are encroaching on the land where we’ve planted our crops,” Oen Sothon said.
Khut Khunvicheth, who also claimed to have been blocked from his land, said the blockade had been set up without consultation with residents affected by the move.
Many in the area are concerned that the land will be given to a private company rather than being used for the drainage project, he added.
But Chamkarmon district governor Lo Yuy said those affected would be free to replant their crops upon the conclusion of the project, adding that the land in question was state land.
“We are doing this to serve the public interest,” he said.
“If I fill the lake with sand and keep the land titles for government officials, please let lightning strike me.”
In a related case, 500 families from Phsar Doeum Thkov were ordered in September to dismantle their homes to make way for the project – which is set to refurbish the area’s existing sewer system and reduce flooding – though the deadline for their eviction passed without incident.