The Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) has predicted that the fate of Boeung Tamok Lake will not be different from that of Boeung Kak Lake ultimately, as over half of the total area of its 3,300 hectares has already been filled in.

GDP officials came to this conclusion after they visited Boeung Tamok on September 19 to inspect conditions there as it is the largest natural lake left in Phnom Penh.

GDP president Yeng Virak, accompanied by senior party members Yang Saing Koma, Sam Inn and Sam Sundeoun, met with people living around the lake in the northern outskirts of the capital.

They said the filling-in of the lake is adversely affecting the rights and land ownership of the people living there, especially the Samrong Tbong community of 250 households who are facing the risk of eviction from a place where they have been living and doing business with for more than 20 years.

The GDP said they regard the plans to evict the community with very little compensation compared to the actual land price as a major social injustice.

The GDP has in the past expressed its opposition against policies such as filling in lakes and clearing forests and then giving the land to wealthy as evidenced by their slogan “don’t let the rich abuse the poor”.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the area is developed for for the benefit of the public after having studied the environmental impacts and setting up a drainage system.

“These are the concerns of those who do not fully understand the plans for development there as we have already considered where to discharge sewage and release water when it rains,” he said.

Siphan said that Boeung Kak Lake was transformed from an open sewage pond into a beautiful and developed neighbourhood.

“We see the development in the northwest and southwest of Phnom Penh as positive signs of growth for the city and in the past when it’s rainy season we see that dirty water like in Boeung Khmuonh became a nice area for people to live and we avoid flooding by having the water flow into the Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers.

“Through the transformation of water into land, Aeon Mall 2 was established and has become a very popular and successful business that employs many Cambodians and pays taxes, so that development is far more profitable than what was lost,” he said.

Siphan stressed that the development of the lake by turning water into land was also necessary due to the increase in the number of people living in Phnom Penh as currently there are more than two million full-time residents and that is much different from the past when there was only half a million in Phnom Penh.

“We let the water stay or the people stay, because in the past those lakes responded to only half a million people, therefore our development responds to the needs of the people,” he added.

Boeung Tamok – also known as Boeung Kob Srov – has a total area of 3,240ha and is located in the northern reaches of Phnom Penh along Win-Win Boulevard or Kob Srov Road, running to the entrance of Phnom Basidh. In 2016, the government set aside 3,239ha of the lake for storing sewage and releasing rain water from Phnom Penh.

Later on, the government decided to fill in a portion of the lake to construct a vegetable market, public gardens and some new headquarter buildings for a few state institutions and then in 2018, the government decided to use another 20 ha of Boeung Tamok at the request of the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration to build another vegetable market and parking lot.

In 2020, the government announced a plan to fill in another 83ha or half of the remaining lake to develop into a public park and natural area. The plans also included infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Central Security Department of the National Police General Commission of the Ministry of Interior.