On 11 May 2020, Prek Pnov district authorities went to demolish an extension to a house at Samrong Tbong on Boeung Tamok lake. The authorities were led by Mr Chea Khema, Governor of Prek Pnov district. After arriving in the morning, authorities asked for documents of community members that related to land holdings, while community members claimed that district authorities had allowed them to live there and build other structures in the area, and had done so for many years. In contrast, authorities are now alleging that people are living on lake land, and therefore illegally, and are not allowed to build strong structures where they live. After disagreement between the authorities and the community, the authorities did not demolish the building extension.
The residents of Samrong Tabong have said they have lived in the area since the 1990s and have had a respectful relationship with the authorities during this time. They have submitted a letter of request for documentation to the Phnom Penh Capital Hall three times, as well as applying to the Khan and Sangkat offices for assistance in residence permits and Family Books. In addition, they have asked authorities to clarify the size of the public land in the area, including both road plans and that of the lake, but have received no official response.
STT produced a map for the community in 2019 using data from sub-decree N 20, on the boundaries of lake Boeung Tamok. According to coordinates of sub-decree N 20, most of the residents’ houses are not inside the officially designated lake Boeung Tamok area, and are therefore not on public land. Most houses, on average, are 52 meters away from the lake boundary.
A complicating issue now is that the authorities are arguing that many houses are too close to the road and are in violation of the law, but no official documents have been produced to demonstrate this claim.
In response to the above issues, STT would like to ask the authorities to clarify the boundaries of the lake and the road in line with due legal process. Moreover, local authorities should appoint expert officials to address the issue as soon as possible so that the issue is not complicated and does not further disturb the rights of community members to live peacefully and with security.
Samrong Tbong community is located in Samrong Tbong Village, Sangkat Samrong, Khan Prek Pnov, Phnom Penh. Currently, Samrong Tbong community has 96 households that house 100 families. Their main sources of income are fishing, working in factories, and small businesses.