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Boeng Kak Lake Area Residents Call off Futile “Freedom Park” Demonstration

By: Norbert Klein Posted: January-12-2011 in
Housing Rights and the Right to Life
Norbert Klein

After one week, the group of residents of the Boeung Kak area facing eviction, as they request a higher compensation for their homes they are going to lose, gave up their futile demonstration in a corner of the “Freedom Park.”

Neither the authorities, nor representatives of the companies involved – Shukaku from Cambodia and the Chinese company Erdos Hong Jun Property Development – entered into communication with the demonstrators.

Since it had become public knowledge that a Chinese company is involved in the planning which leads to 4,000 families having to more away, some of their representatives had also declared to boycott Chinese goods, if the company fails to offer adequate compensation, which would allow them to start a residence at another place.

On 5 January 2011 it had been reported that the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy, Mr. Qian Hai, had still denied that a Chinese firm was involved in the Boeung Kak developments. “From what I know, at this stage, no Chinese company is taking part in this project.” He also dismissed Chinese media reports linking Erdos Hung Jun Property Development to the urbanization project for which the lake is being eliminated by being filling it with sand.

However, Tol Srey Pov, a community representative, called on people across Cambodia to support their struggle by boycotting Chinese goods on sale all over the country. But there does not seem to be much response among the citizens of Phnom Penh, who are losing their lake as an important recreation and drainage area.

After my moto-taxi driver had to inquire several times to find the “Freedom Park,” where I saw the lonely, isolated group (restricted to not more than 200 persons) of poor protesters huddled together in a corner of the wast area of the Freedom Park, I wondered who in this big city of Phnom Penh – apart from themselves and a few members of an NGOs supporting Housing Rights – cares for their fate.

I remembered the famous words of Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) who, after having been the commander of a German submarine, later turned to be an anti-Nazi and anti-dictatorial fighter, for which he was imprisoned, expecting his death, before the end of Second World War set him free; he said:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Will Tol Srey Pov, who called on fellow citizens for solidarity, saying, “Today, Shukaku and the Chinese company abused my home and that of others right in our community. Tomorrow, other companies will encroach on your homes in your community” – will she have to face a similar isolation as Martin Niemoeller had to endure?

Norbert KLEIN

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 699 – Tuesday, 11.1.2011
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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