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One of Phnom Penh’s last lakes has lost almost a third of its volume after public institutions and private interests have snapped up more than 1,000 hectares in total, prompting concerns for rights advocates
PHNOM PENH--The Cambodian government has ceded 3 hectares of Boeung Tamok lake to the National Election Committee (NEC) while NGOs asked for reconsideration regarding the social and environmental impacts more lake-filling will have on local people who use Boeung Tamok to fish and farm.
NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea said that the NEC will use the 3-hectare plot of Boeung Tamok provided by the government for the construction of the new office which was granted via a sub-decree dated Dec. 17, 2021.
“The NEC must have its own office,” he said, adding that he didn’t know when the headquarters would be built, but concluded it would likely be sometime after the 2022 commune elections and perhaps even after the 2023 national elections.
The NEC’s original office was located inside the Ministry of Interior, but in 2017, the NEC moved to a new office in front of the Buddhist Academy in Chamkarmon District, Phnom Penh—this office, Puthea said, would be returned to the state once the new office is finished.
Boeung Tamok has become a central site for government buildings in the last two years, with Prime Minister Hun Sen signing over vast swathes of what is one of Phnom Penh’s last remaining lakes to various ministries and government institutions.
But private companies and individuals have also jumped at the chance to grab a slice of Boeung Tamok and as of 2022, more than 1,000 hectares of what was once a 3,239.7 hectare lake has been signed over to be filled in for the use of public institutions and private interests.
Soeung Saran, executive director of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut—an urban land rights NGO in Phnom Penh—raised concerns over what these developments will mean for the thousands of people who still rely on the lake for food and which also provides a flood defense for the city.
“The government should reconsider and reassess the impacts on local people of ceding Boeung Tamok because it’s a huge lake that provides many benefits through fishing, planting lotuses and farming,” he said. “The lake can hold millions of cubic meters of water, which can help avoid flooding.”
According to Samakum Teang Tnaut’s research, there are there are about 300 families and about 1,000 people living around the lake, most of whom are engaged in fishing, farming and renting small houses.