has one of the world's worst rates of landlessness, and
the problem is growing. The U.S. Agency for
International Development estimated that in 1999, 12% of
Cambodians had no home or title to land.
Most Cambodians believe Cambodia is a country of
agriculture by nature. Over 80 percent of the
country's population lived in rural villages.
For them the benefits of liberation of January 7th
1979 were realized in educational and social
improvements that they believe would not
significantly alter the traditional character of
their village life.
Land Concessions: Pheapimex Co Ltd (315,025
hectares), Green Sea Industry Co Ltd (100,852
hectares), and Green Rich Co Ltd (60,200
summary of the interview on City Hall's website
says the governor distinguished two types of
development: one based on public investment in
infrastructure and another based on private
investment related to "buying-selling between
private companies and land owners...under free
In the case of both public and private
development projects affecting landowners, the
governor said the policy was to pay market-price
It is instructive to apply Mr Chuktema's
explanation to the current land dispute between
City Hall, private developer Shukaku Erdos Hung
Jun Property Development and families living
around Boeung Kak lake.
This project appears to entail a combination of
public and private developments. A private
company has been granted a 99-year lease over
the 129-hectare area and has been granted the
right to develop it for private profit.
The city and the developer have set monetary
compensation policy at $8,500 per household,
regardless of the size or type of house or
whether they are living on the lake, which is
state public property, or the land around the
lake, which is legally possessed by the lakeside
Eviction and demolition orders have also been
given to homeowners living outside of the leased
area to make way for public access roads into
the development zone. In most cases, these
households, like those living on the land in the
lease area, are legal possessors who were
unlawfully excluded from the systematic land
registration process that took place in the area
in 2006 to 2007.
Nevertheless, the 2010 Expropriation Law is
clear that legal possessors have the same right
to market-based compensation as titled owners.
Despite these guarantees, the cash compensation
being offered to Boeung Kak families is a tiny
fraction of what their homes are worth.
have met families who paid up to $200,000 for
their property and were forced to accept $8,500
as compensation as they watched their homes
disappear under a deluge of mud from Shukaku's
sand pumping machine.
market survey of the land values of privately
held plots around the lake suggests property
prices before development range from $1,500 to
$3,000 per square meter. This is interesting
since Shukaku paid a mere $79 million for that
land and the 90-hectare lake that is now being
Altogether, once the lake is filled, the entire
lease area will be worth a minimum of $1.941
billion. Shukaku was thus awarded the property
at about 4 percent of its market value, while
the residents, who are being compensated out of
the $79 million rental fee, are forced to accept
between 5 and 10 percent of their property
values in compensation.
If compensation was paid to the legal possessors
based on the lowest range of the market price,
the developer should be paying out at least $450
million to the residents just for their land.
Yet, the compensation payments amount to little
more than $36 million in total for both land and
You may have gotten lost in the math but the
bottom line of this equation is the theft of
about a half billion dollars in private
Is it starting to make sense now why these
people are protesting nearly every day outside
City Hall and blocking roads because they cannot
get a meeting with the governor?
It is of course not just that their property is
being taken from them at a fraction of the
market price that has the residents up in arms.
It is that they simply cannot buy another home
in the city with the compensation on offer. They
face not just the loss of their homes but also
their livelihoods and their right to enjoy the
services and amenities of the city.
It is for this reason that the remaining
families at Boeung Kak have put forward a
proposal to resolve the land dispute in a manner
in which everybody wins--the developer, the
residents and the city. They have even put
forward their own development plan for
standardized, upgraded housing and have sought
out their own donor financing for the
construction. All they are asking for from the
State is 15 hectares of land, which is
approximately half of the land around the lake
that they already rightfully own.
Unfortunately, Mr Chuktema, the governor,
rejected the community's proposal and on
Thursday the remaining 10,000 people living
around the lake were served with a seven-day
deadline to accept compensation or get nothing.
If the government were to seize this
opportunity, it could lay the foundation for a
more just and inclusive society, where
development projects and policies strike an
appropriate balance between economic growth and
One thing is certain: whatever is built on the
site of Boeung Kak will forever be a symbol of
the nation's development. It now rests with
Cambodia's leaders to decide if that symbol will
be a source of pride or shame for future
About this article:
Inclusive development is still possible in
Cambodia, Comment by BABC Executive Director
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