Boeung Kak Lake
Boeung Kak, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a northern area of the city; it was famous for its 90ha lake, which was one of the last green spaces of the capital. 9 “villages” surrounded the lake; it enabled them to live thanks to this natural water supply (by fishing, cultivating, attracting tourists…)
Both locals and backpackers appreciated the lake; people strolled around lakeside watching sunset. It has been told to have a similar atmosphere as Goa, India.
In 2007, Prime Minister decided to sell the lake to a Chinese company (Shukaku Inc.) that had a business centre project. The social and environmental impacts of the project were not considered: the Cambodian Government focuses more on economic growth and it did not really hesitate to sacrifice a part of its population in the name of financial interests.
2007: Cambodian Government grants a 99-year lease to Shukaku Inc. (led by the Cambodian Senator Lao Meng Khin)
2008: Boeung Kak’s Lake turns into a private land and the Chinese Company, Shukaku Inc., starts to silt it up
2011: the World Bank suspends financial assistance to Cambodian Government. A Government sub-decree gives back 12.44ha property rights to Boeung Kak’s families
2014: Shukaku Inc. cancels its projects because it lacks money (due to the withdrawal of a Chinese investor)
2015: national and international NGOs keep on supporting Boeung
Kak’s inhabitants, so that they can get their lands back. However,
nothing changes. Meanwhile, the Government tries to resell pieces of lands to keep up appearances
National and international mobilization: “Save Boeung Kak”
Faced with these injustices, an activist movement rises in 2009, “Save Boeung Kak”. A woman leads it: Tep Vanny.
Pacifist demonstrations are organized by Boeung Kak’s people in order to defend their rights, but the police officers keep on putting them down violently. There are many arrests and several inhabitants (mostly women) are thrown in jail and suffer from violence.
People then try to use legal means, with or without international organizations support. The Cambodian Government rejects all of them.
Eventually, in August 2011, after many years of struggle, the Government gives back property rights for the 12.44ha to 800 families. It is a first victory for Boeung Kak’s people!
The fight goes on though, as 90 families couldn’t get their property back. Since mid-2012 demonstrations are still organized to condemn the exclusion of those families from the sub-decree and their eviction from their land.
Moreover, activists keep on struggling since expulsions still happen
Documentary Même un oiseau a besoin de son nid (Even a bird needs a nest) from Christine Janjou et Vincent Trintignant-Corneau (both are French), dedicated to Boeung Kak’s families that were evicted. They shed an objective light on the condition, they collect inhabitants testimonies but also the Government’s.