Cambodia urged to halt Boeung Kak Lake forced evictions in Phnom Penh

The Cambodian authorities must stop a series of heavy-handed forced evictions in Phnom Penh which have seen thousands of families lose their homes, Amnesty International said today.About a further 90 families living around Boeung Kak Lake in the centre of the capital are at imminent risk of forced eviction as development company Shukaku Inc clears the land for construction.Eight homes and businesses were demolished without warning in village 22 on Friday by two excavators accompanied by around 100 armed riot police and security guards.One Boeung Kak Lake resident and activist, Suong Sophorn was beaten unconscious by police with batons and a brick after he called for other residents to join hands to stop the destruction of more houses.”The authorities must act to ensure that no further forced evictions are carried out in the Boeung Kak Lake area and that all the remaining families are treated fairly and equally” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.”They must also launch an investigation into the beating of Suong Sophorn and bring those police officers responsible to justice.”Only 779 out of some 4,000 families are still living in the Boeung Kak Lake area. The others were subjected to a campaign of threats and intimidation to accept inadequate compensation or resettlement to a site 20km away from their work and livelihoods.On 11 August, the prime minister authorized 12.44 hectares of land within the Boeung Kak Lake development area to be handed over to the remaining 779 families for onsite housing in plots with legal ownership.However, the Municipality of Phnom Penh (MPP) has excluded 96 families in villages which it claims do not live within the 12.44 hectares.The families whose homes and businesses were destroyed on 16 September are among these 96 excluded households.Families have lived under threat of forced eviction since February 2007 when the MPP granted a 99-year lease for the land to Shukaku Inc.