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Boeung Kak Lake Evictions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


The Boeung Kak Lake was a lake in the center of urban Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It used to be a residential area for around nine villages surrounding the lake, in which around 4000 families lived [1]. The lake was further a central source for food and income generation for the residential families, based on the use of related natural resources (i.e. fishing, water plants), as well as an important local water source. Boeung Kak Lake was the largest urban wet land in Cambodia.

In 2007, a 99-years lease concession worth $79 million and amounting to 133ha corresponding to the lake and surrounding areas, was granted to Shukaku Inc, a property development company owned by Lao Meng Khin, senator of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and an associate of Prime Minister Hun Sen. In 2010, a joint venture with Chinese Erdos Hong Jun Investment Co., Ltd. was created and the lease contract was re-registered under Shukaku Erdos Hongjun Property Development Co. Ltd. [2].

The company started to fill the lake with sand with the aim to “make land” for luxury property development in central urban Phnom Penh. As a result, an estimate of 20,000 persons were affected and threatened by evictions [2]. Concerns were further raised from environmental scientists that the filling of the lake would disrupt the hydrological system, increasing the risk of flooding [3]. Protests increased in intensity, involving villagers, activists and various NGOS.

In 2011, in a peaceful protest aiming at stopping evictions and entering negotiation to solve the conflict, several Boeung Kak Lake villagers were arrested and others were beaten by armed anti-riot police [4].

Protests reached the international level. In 2011, the World Bank suspended lending to Cambodia until an agreement with the residents would be achieved. (Note that however, World Bank’s Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), responsible for land titling, arbitrarily excluded Boeung Kak Lake villagers from land registration previously conducted in neighborhoods in 2006). The Cambodian government finally agreed to an alternative housing plan put forward by villagers and involved NGOs, and issued a sub-decree in which 12,44ha were allocated to around 800 families. Most families however were evicted and forced to accept compensation at less than $8000 - a fraction of the market value [2][5]. Meanwhile, the company has entered into agreements to sell around 1% of the land (1,3 ha) to Singapore listed property development company HLH for no less than $14,9 million [6].

In 2017, all former residential houses have been torn down, most of the families have been evicted, protesters were criminalized, and the lake has been completely filled and turned into urban land for property development. Some families have been relocated into resettlement areas, but still do not have titles for that land either [9]. What used to be a large lake in the middle of the city, rich of natural resources, a water source and the livelihood basis for many local residents, is nowadays an empty land area reserved for urban development, associated to urban evictions that likely had never been so large since the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh in the 1970s .

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Boeung Kak Lake Evictions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Location of conflict:Phnom Penh
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

133ha of former lake area and surrounding areas, used as residential land and water source of small urban fishermen and farmer communities, converted into land for luxury urban property development

Project area:133
Level of Investment:79,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:15,000-20,000
Start of the conflict:01/03/2007
End of the conflict:2017
Company names or state enterprises:D’Lotus Development Limited from Cambodia - Boeung Kak Lake property development, Phnom Penh
Erdos Hong Jun Investment Co., Ltd from China
HLH Group Limited (HLH) from Singapore - Boeung Kak Lake property development, Phnom Penh
Shukaku Inc. from Cambodia - Boeung Kak Lake property development, Phnom Penh
Relevant government actors:Lao Meng Khin, (Cambodian People’s Party)
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National and regional level
Bridges Across Boarders Cambodia (now Equitable Cambodia)
Inclusive Development Cambodia
Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
Mekong Commons
and others
International level
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
and others

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Potential: Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsSuicide due to survival threats
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Land demarcation
New legislation
Proposal and development of alternatives:An alternative development and housing plan was proposed by the remaining community in January 2011, in cooperation with NGOs such as Bridges across Boarders Cambodia (now Equitable Cambodia). In this plan, the development of housing facilities onsite were proposed, so that the communities would not have to leave the area (7). Under international pressure, the Cambodian government agreed and issued in August 2011 a sub-decree in which 12,44ha were allocated to around 800 remaining families (8).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Project goes on, while most families have been evicted.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Sub-Decree No.183 ANK.BK

(Sub-decree issued on August 11th for the allocation of 12,44 ha to Boeung Kak Lake villagers for onsite development)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(3) Boeung Kak Area Drainage and Flooding Assessment

(7) Boeung Kak Alternative Planning,-107,848

(1) Licadho, 2009 The Myth of development

Cambodia Development Watch on the Lease Agreement

Licadho (human rights NGO) on the Boeung Kak Lake conflict

(2) Inclusive Development International: Boeung Kak Lake Evictions

Wikipedia on Boeung Kak (the name of area after making it a land area)

(8) Reuters - Cambodia agrees land deal after World Bank halts loans

(6) The Phnom Penh Post - Boeung Kak land deal not yet sealed

(9) Boeung Kak: A Disastrous Decade

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Documentary on the case, produced by LICADHO on request of the affected communities

Trailer of The Cause of Progress - Boeung Kak lake

Meta information

Contributor:Scheidel, A. (ICTA-UAB) arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update17/02/2015



Boeung Kak Lake 2003 - 2014

Turning a wetland into an urban area

Torn down houses

Cleared area around the lake, in May 2011