You couldn’t make it up

June 15, 2012

Once upon a time, there was a little kingdom, far, far away, which was ruled by a one-eyed king. The king lived in a big palace, and had ruled over his people for many years. When he was a young prince, he had had to fight many battles against cruel enemies who wanted to take over the kingdom and rule it, but now his people were at peace.

In the middle of the capital city, there was a beautiful lake, and around the lake lived at least four thousand families. They were poor, but they were happy. But one day, one of the one-eyed king’s knights decided that he should have the lake all to himself, so that he could build a lot of houses and shops, and make himself a lot of money. 

The beautiful lake, as well as being home to all the poor people, was also popular with travelers from around the world, who came to watch the sun set over the water, and with people from all over the capital city, who came to relax with their families and fly kites and watch musicians play.

But the evil knight, who was called Lao Meng Khin, was a close friend and advisor to the king, and a member of the country’s senate, so the city authorities just gave him the lake on a 99-year lease.

The evil knight’s company, called Shukaku, is a joint venture agreement with a company from the kingdom of Inner Mongolia, called Erdos Hongjun Investment Corp.

No public hearings were held on the proposal to give the rights to the 133 hectares of the lake to Shukaku. Many people said that it wasn’t environmentally wise to fill in one of the blazingly-hot capital’s main aquifers. The one-eyed king told his people there had been a proper environmental impact report, but, unfortunately, no one but him has seen it.

The knight and his henchmen subjected the families around the lake to a campaign of threats and intimidation to get them to move, and most of the poor lake-dwellers eventually accepted inadequate compensation, or resettlement to a new village 20km away from their work and livelihoods.

Of course, some of the lake dwellers didn’t want to move from their homes to make way for an up-market residential and leisure complex. But Lao Meng Khin didn’t care. He arranged forced evictions and beatings, he illegally knocked down houses, and his henchmen beat some of the protestors unconscious with bricks and batons.

Last week 13 women, including a 72-year-old, were put in prison for 30 months for illegally occupying the lakeside land and “aggravated rebellion” after demonstrating on the site of their former homes.

The sentences, after a lawyer-less, three-hour trial, prompted an outcry from other kingdoms, but the knight and the king didn’t care. They were in charge, and no one was going to tell them what they should do. They had already ignored the World Bank, for instance, which had cut off their supply of riches given to them from other kindlier kingdoms to protest against the lake plans.

Now the lake is filled in with sand: no animals or birds live there any more, no children play around its margins. There is also no sign of any building work, or up-market housing and leisure facilities. The capital city is full of half-finished private housing projects which no one wants to live in, so there is no hurry to build this one. Except for the fact that 4,000 families lost their homes to satisfy the whims of the evil knight and the one-eyed king.

No one is living happily ever after.

 

The sandy area in the middle distance is where Boeung Kak Lake was. Soon to be a luxury gated housing development!
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One Response to “You couldn’t make it up”

  1. […] Yorm, a 30-year-old mother of one, is a representative of the Boeung Kak Lake community, who came to prominence during the campaign to release 13 imprisoned Boeung Kak women last year. Which I’ve written about before. […]

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