A third of the 30 families who have been asked to leave Phnom Penh’s Boeung Tamok lake have removed their houses and left the area.

Authorities had issued a notice requiring them to leave the site, located on Street 151 in Prek Pnov district’s Ponsaing commune, following a sub-decree designating the area as state property.

Prek Pnov district governor Sok Sambath told The Post on Monday that the 30 families had twice been told to leave after they had encroached on the lake, officially known as Tomnup Kob Srov lake.

“I issued the letter to everyone constructing or running businesses on Boeung Tamok lake next to the land designated by the government’s sub-decree, saying they had to leave."

“In addition, those who own fishing nets that encroach on state land are also required to leave,” he said. However, he did not say what would happen to those who had not left.

Boeung Tamok lake is a large natural lake covering 3,239.7ha. On February 3, 2016, the government issued a sub-decree designating it and the surrounding land as state public property.

It was used to release sewage and as a flood-water reservoir after 15 of Phnom Penh’s natural lakes were filled in for development, according to a research report by local NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut published in 2015.

‘Livelihoods will be difficult’

In August last year, the government requested 20ha of land be used to construct a vegetable market and a bus stop in the area. A road is being constructed across the land, which has drawn criticism.

Khy Theara, one of the villagers, told The Post that after receiving a letter from authorities asking her to leave, she complied and has rented a house nearby so she can continue making a living from fishing on the lake.

“Our livelihoods will be difficult, but what can we do? They asked us to leave so we’ll need to rent a house and pay for utilities."

“But for some, they don’t know where to go, so they hold out. The authorities allow them to sell goods under trees without building a hut or making any construction because they are afraid they would continue to live there.”

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut operations director Soeung Saran said those ordered to move are all poor and make a living by fishing at Boeung Tamok lake.

He said relocating would affect their livelihoods, while their children will lose access to education if they were not able to continue living in the area.

Saran requested the authorities to lay out a policy to help lessen the negative impacts of those told to move.

“There is no transparency in the relocation. Villagers who are very poor have been asked to leave, while others are allowed to stay. The government should ensure transparency for those involved,” he said.