Prek Pnov district authorities have evicted families living illegally around Boeng Tamouk lake, Phnom Penh’s largest reservoir, part of which is to be reclaimed to build a market.
Sim Sophang, district administrative chief, said there will be no compensation.
“There is no policy to compensate them because they are living on state land illegally,” he said, noting that some of them had built temporary shelters and did not permanently live around the lake.
During a visit to the lake last week, trucks and bulldozers were seen starting to reclaim some parts of the lake for the planned 20-hectare vegetable market project.
A foreman overseeing the operation and who declined to be named, said that reclamation works started about one month ago but he did not know when they would start to build the market.
“I am just in charge of overseeing the work to reclaim the lake,” he said. “I do not know anything more about the project.”
Boeng Tamouk lake, also known as Tumnup Kobsrov, is about 15 kilometres away from the city centre. It is one of the last lakes in Phnom Penh relatively unaffected by development, according to Cambodian Urban NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut.
In 2016, the government issued a sub-decree designating the 3,239-hectare lake as preserved land.
In late August, the Council of Ministers issued a letter, which had been endorsed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which stated that 20 hectares around the lake would be developed to build the market.
“The Office of the Council of Ministers would like to inform that the Royal Government has already approved in principle the development of 20 hectares of land in Boeng Tamouk lake to build a market for the supply of vegetables and fruits, complete with parking space,” it said. “We will relocate the vegetable market at Doeum Kor market to the new location in Boeng Tamouk lake.”
Ros Chanthy, 56, who lives in a wooden hut near the reclamation site, last week said that district authorities came on Wednesday and told her family to move out from the area.
“The district authorities came and told us to move out first and they will discuss compensation later,” she said. “They did not tell what the compensation is but we want to have plot of land to live on.”
Ms Chanthy has claimed she came to live in the area in the 1980s and fishes in the lake for a living.
“There are three families, including mine who have permanently settled here, she said. “The other families have built temporary shelters.”
“I am not against the development project but they have to pay us compensation,” Ms Chanthy added.
Another resident Lor Khan, 67, who has a house near the lake, said he has not received any eviction orders.
“I think my house will not be affected by the development project because they are starting to reclaim the northern part of the lake which is far away from my house,” he noted.
Mr Sophang, Prek Pnov district administration chief, said that the last three families living in huts on the lake side relocated on Saturday.
“They cooperated with authorities to move out and I don’t know where their new location is,” Mr Sophang said.
District Governor Sok Sambath and City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey could not be reached for comment.