Archive for March 4th, 2007

Sunday,2007-3-4: Do Phnom Penh City Plans Ignore the Prime Minister’s Recommendations?

Posted on 4 March 2007. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 497 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 497

In our posting for Tuesday last week, 20.2.2007, we reported the Prime Minister’s Eleven Point Recommendations for the environment and the concern that over-exploitation of natural resources caused by business activities will result in the loss of natural opportunities and protections. There are serious warnings about the long term negative consequences for the future of the country, if short term benefits are pursued recklessly, without the serious concern for the future. One cannot but wonder why these concerns are not reflected at all in the plans forcefully pushed ahead by the Phnom Penh municipal administration for the Boeng Kak area.

The Prime Minister makes it clear that utmost care is necessary when it comes to considerations about the natural environment, calling that strategies and action plans need to be revised every three years. Human insight into the delicate natural balance of environmental factors is still fairly new, and therefore plans need to be regularly adjusted in order not to miss some important points.

The Phnom Penh Municipality is said to have entered into a 99-year lease for one of the most unique environments in the capital city, a lake and its surroundings. Most big cities of the world would treasure having such a lake in their midst. But the present plans will fill in a major part of it.

The Prime Minister stressed that it is difficult to protect endangered natural resources. Many voices have been reported which warn of severe flooding for the city of Phnom Penh if important reservoirs which provide temporary basins for excessive rain water – such as the Boeng Kak Lake – are filled in to a large extent. Who will be held responsible – and who will pay the enormous costs of flooding – when the warnings come true? The Prime Minister has emphasized that offenders must be held fully responsible for the consequences of their actions. How will this be realized, once the plans are implemented and if they have strong negative consequences?

The Prime Minister also stressed that successful and effective control of natural resources can best be achieved when the affected local people participate in the implementation of related programs. Until now, only rough ideas about the future have been shared with the public, and inquiries by the media about details have not resulted in much clarification, because the officials in charge “are too busy to talk to reporters.” None of the press reports we are aware of mention anything about the most important recommendation of the Prime Minister: that in the case of environmentally sensitive developments, the Ministry of Environment should work with officials at all levels to create community statutes which make sure that the benefits from development based on the use of nature should be shared equitably.

The report about the Tenth recommendation of the Prime Minister speaks about the duties of local authorities, and problems: “It is hard to believe that local authorities do not know about offenses committed in their communities. Some authorities do not cooperate well with the Ministry of Environment, but they have to improve.” The Prime Minister added that the possible impacts have to be assessed by the Ministry of Environment, and that such assessment has to be carried out transparently. The Prime Minister specified that, wherever wetland areas are concerned, planning should also involve the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. We have not yet seen any reports that the leadership of the capital city has received, or even asked for, environmental and wetlands assessments for the planned development from these two ministries. Perhaps the requirement for assessments has been totally ignored? It is obvious that the requirement that the assessments be transparent – especially to the people living in the area and being affected – has been disregarded.

Finally, it is astonishing that such far-reaching plans are being pursued without an open publicly announced bidding process. It is astounding that a hardly known company, which is identified in some media as Japanese and in others as Korean, got a 99-year lease agreement which will have fundamental consequences for the capital city of Cambodia for the next century – without broad public debate. One can only hope that the profound concerns expressed by the Prime Minister will be heeded before too much damage has been done.

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Saturday, 3.3.2007: There Will Be Fighting Over Development of Boeng Kak Area Because Those Who Have Large Pieces of Land May Receive Small Ones

Posted on 4 March 2007. Filed under: Week 497 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 497

“Concerning the Phnom Penh Municipality’s policy on the Boeng Kak area development, the authorities said that there would be development in place, which prompted the question that people who have big houses ask whether or not those who have big houses and big plots of land will receive, after the development, just the same land and houses as those who have only small pieces of land. If so, there would be another round of protest, if the division of land and the allocation of housing were not transparent. This is the main concern of the people who currently have big houses in the Boeng Kak area.

“At present, the Boeng Kak area covers 133 hectares, which a company leased from the government at the price of $0.60 per square meter for every year according to the 99-year contract. The company has to pay roughly US$79 million for the lease of this area. Currently, there are 4,012 families living in this area, and the people have come to live in this area since the 1980s or 1990s. In an interview with people living in this area, most of them supported the project of development in place; that is, that they are not relocated to the outskirts during the construction.

“The people who live in the Boeng Kak area claimed that they were happy to support the development formula with the residents in place, because living in orderly ways is better than acting in anarchical ways. If the Phnom Penh Municipality and the company develop the area in accordance with the formula of the development in place, the people in this area will not oppose it, because each of them have lived in this area for a long time, since the 1980s. If the people were relocated to live far away from the city, they would have to protest against it.

“In regard to the Boeng Kak area development project, a number of people are not very satisfied with this project because some of them have big brick houses. If flats were built to be allocated to the people who are living in the Boeng Kak area, as was done in the Borei Keila area [a squatter’s area where the city is building a seven floor building to house the inhabitants], and they received the same portion as those who had small houses, they would not be satisfied. This is a problem that the Phnom Penh Municipality has to solve. Around the Boeng Kak area, there are hundreds of guesthouses, and many restaurants and villas, which were built by the waterfront.

“An unidentified woman briefly explained that she was concerned about the project of the development in place, because her house is on the ground floor, and she is afraid that, after the development, a flat on the second floor might be allocated to her. This would make it difficult for her to keep her things, such as a car, a motorcycle, and so on. However, she did not disagree about the development project, because the municipality and the government need to develop this area.

“The people of the Boeng Kak area are still afraid that the development project will probably affect their residences. Even though the Phnom Penh municipality authorities assured them about the development, the people are still concerned, and do not trust the Phnom Penh municipal authorities and the governor Kep Chutema, because the authorities have not considered the people’s interests important. This attitude is due to the past bitter lessons that the people have not forgotten and are concerned about. Because the Phnom Penh leadership put personal interests above the people’s common interest, there were rumors that this development project provided many commissions to the Phnom Penh governor. The commissions that the governor supposedly received were similar to the benefits or commissions that the governor received from businesses as in the case of the land on the other side of the river in front of the Royal Palace. Kep Chutema is assumed to be the person who received many commissions, almost for the rest of his whole life, for leasing the Boeng Kak area to private companies. No one dares to criticize the governor for receiving such profit.

“The people living in the Boeng Kak area are still concerned about the problem of the authorities’ development project. Kep Chutema’s Phnom Penh municipal authorities showed confidence and took different actions so that the people should not be concerned about the development project, but people seem to be even more worried. It is said that the commissions encouraged the municipal governor to provide the Boeng Kak development investment to private companies, and this is said to be an easy moneymaking method that the Phnom Penh municipal authority of Kep Chutema uses for personal interest, not for the interests of the nation and people. Finally, the people are still concerned because the authorities may secretly receive payments from business people.

“It has been seen that Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chutema was the person who ‘burned’ and sold many national properties, such as the land on the other side of the river in front of the Royal Palace, to the company of Mr. Sok Kong who is a Yuon [Vietnamese], and at that time, Mr. Sok Kong offered Kep Chutema many under-the-table presents. Therefore, what Kep Chutema did in the past was observed as serving more the cause of personal interest than national development.” Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #2981, 3.3.2007

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 3 March 2007

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1281, 3.3.2007

  • Meeting At The Cambodian-Thai Border Was Tense On The Problem Of The Chong Sa-Ngam Crossing Point [officials came back home after the 2-day meeting with few positive results]
  • Tong Tin [traditional loan scheme] Members In Ta Khao Market Are Agitated After Learning That Two Tong Tin Organizers Ran Away With About US$1 Million [Tong Tin members surrounded one tong tin organizer’s house but got threatened with a rifle by her son-in-law and the statement that there is no proof of the theft]
  • Tax Department Chief [of Phnom Penh] Donated Water-Pumping Equipment To Fight Against Drought In Prek Ampil [to more than 1,000 villagers and students in Mok Kompoul, Kandal, who are often facing water shortage during dry season]
  • Acting President Of Kampot Railway Office Colluded With Business People To Secretly Sell Railroad Wagons, Secretly As When Thieves Steal Horses [each wagon costs around $1,900]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #5981, 3-4.3.2007

  • The Retired King Still Wants To See The Bones And Skeletons Of Pol Pot Victims Cremated, And He Announced That He Would Never Again Write Any Political Texts [in his Bulletin Mensuel de Documentation and on his web site] Starting from the 20:00 of 1 March 2007

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3100, 3.2.2007

  • Hun Sen And Sok An Canceled Their Participation In The Asean Foreign Ministers Summit Because The Siamese [Thais] Invaded Cambodian Territory At Chong Sa-Ngam Crossing Point [result of a disagreement about the border crisis between Cambodia and Thailand last month]
  • $20,000 In The Black Box From Three Casino Owners [which have a role in the senate] Is Used For Conducting A Campaign To Tear Down Sam Rainsy Party Signs

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, 4226, 3.2.2007

  • Property Title Deeds Were Issued For Land Around Wat Kok Patry, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap, Siem Reap [by Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction]
  • Missing Adult Sons And Daughters Or Bad Husbands Can Be Found At Prey Smach Near Prek Tup [a resort in Sihanoukville; this is a place where people go to have illicit sex quietly]
  • Issues Arising At Garment Factories During February 2007 [Includes details of:
    – 5 February: 100 workers went on strike, as their wages for December 2006 and January 2007 have not yet been paid by their factories in Russey Keo.
    – 9 February: More than 600 workers strike at Hy Tex Garment factory, asking the factory to allow their representative to resume work.
    – 10 February: More than 1,000 Supreme Garment Factory workers strike to have some members of the administrative staff of the factory removed for verbal harassment and for firings without giving reasons.
    – 20 February: More than 1,000 workers from the GHG Garment Factory strike and ask the factory to allow their three female representatives to resume their work after they had been suspended from work.
    – 22 February: After being unable to solve their problems themselves, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training, and Youth Rehabilitation invited both the GHG company and the workers to solve their problems, but the workers did not show up.
    – 23 February: Workers at GHG resumed work after the case was referred to the Arbitration Council]
  • Education Officials Demand That The Principle Of Non-Violent Treatment Of Students In Schools Should Be Stated In The Education Law [students in Sihanoukville were punished by making them stand in front of the school flag, because they did not wear name tags on their white shirts]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #2981, 3.3.2007

  • There Will Be Fighting Over Development of Boeng Kak Area Because Those Who Have Large Pieces of Land May Receive Small Ones

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #343, 3.3.2007

  • Sok An Closed The Case Where Hun Sen Had Ordered The Ministry Of Justice To Investigate [about the quiet release of Leang Huor Hotel owners, accused of involvement in human trafficking; suggests that officials of the Ministry of Justice has difficulties to take action in this case because Minister Sok An is the ‘big teacher’ of Prime Minister Hun Sen; on the other hand, they think that the Prime Minister just made some noise before the commune elections, but is not willing to really act]
  • Does The Cambodian Bar Association Really Need 4,000 Lawyers And Each Member Has To Pay $2,000? [Mr. Ky Tech, the president of the Bar Association of Cambodia, said on 1 March that the lawyers are needed, but one source said that lawyers have to pay $2,000 to become members of the Bar Association; questions were raised about why he needs so many lawyers]

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