Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 10:47 UK

Lake dwellers fear loss of homes

By Guy Delauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Low-rise buildings ring shore of marshy lake
Boeung Kak lake is being filled in for a property development

Residents around the largest lake in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, are protesting against it being filled in.

Boeung Kak is home to thousands of families - many of whom own homes and thriving businesses serving tourists.

The local government has leased the land to a property developer - a move residents say is illegal.

Some argue the project is needed to help develop the city, but others say that compensation is too low and that rights have been ignored.

Disappearing lake

An enormous pipe is spewing a constant flow of sandy sludge into one of Phnom Penh's few open spaces.

By the time it is turned off, only a tiny part of the lake will remain.


The developers plan to build high-end shopping centres and housing on the new land.

But the project is a multiple blow for local residents. They stand to lose both their homes and their livelihoods.

The sunset over Boeung Kak is one of the most striking sights in the city and it attracts large numbers of overseas tourists.

Dozens of guest houses, restaurants and shops provide a good living for local families. There seems to be little chance of those businesses surviving.

Residents have been offered alternative housing on the outskirts of Phnom Penh - or a small amount of cash.

But many people living and working here rent their property - and face losing everything.

"We've been doing this business for 10 years - and suddenly we heard [about] the development. So we're worried, we're all worried. We don't know where we're going to and what's going to happen," said a guest house owner.

Housing rights organisations say the deal between the city and the developers is an illegal use of state land.

But local government officials insist that partnerships between the public and private sectors are the best way to ensure much-needed development in Phnom Penh.

Evictions in Cambodia criticised
20 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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29 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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