Phnom Penh is a city with big ideas. The Cambodian capital is being shaped as an assertive, bold centerpiece of national growth and modernization, and for that Phnom Penh needs elbow room and plenty of it. The Boeung Kak Lake is a ten minute drive from the city center and one of the thousands of neighborhoods around the country taken by the authorities for development.
In recent years almost half unwilling residents have been forcibly evicted, nationally. The authorities were so violent that some women had miscarriages. The evictees claim that the society is full of darkness and no justice. One elderly woman was being bundled into a police van. Four policemen came to drag her out, she tried to resist but they pushed her and they carried her by her arms and legs.
Two women from a brave band of 13 have come to symbolize the struggle against ramped evictions by a government favoring developers and cronies. A company owned by a ruling party senator is planning a $90 million development of Boeung Kak Lake. The BK13 refuse to go They have been to hell and back in a battle to save their homes. Much of their neighborhood may have been raised, the lake filled in, but there is still plenty of fight.
In the development of Boeung Kak Lake, many people lost their houses and their businesses. They once lived in a safety but now they have no security, no happiness and no future. More than 3,000 families were forced to move because of fear, so they feel they have failed in life. There are 794 families remaining and they're not going anywhere.
The evictions bring back painful memories of Cambodia's darkest days. People have been forced from home before, when the Khmer Rouge controlled the country. The current drama over land ownership has its origins in that period of Pol Pot's rule. His Khmer Rouge killed millions of Cambodians and in pursuit of their Year Zero doctrine, they also eradicated the notion of private property, and land title was extinguished. It's been a test to Cambodian leadership since, to restore a viable system of ownership.