VOA Khmer Phnom Penh
22 February 2008
Chun Sakada reports in Khmer (1.10 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Cambodian police and military police launched tear gas into a crowd of residents, injuring several, prior to forcibly evicting them from their Phnom Penh neighborhood early Friday morning, rights investigators and witnesses said.
Around 500 security forces armed with batons and riot shields forcibly evicted the families, in Russie Keo district, firing multiple rifle shots into the air and accompanied by a water cannon and bulldozer, witnesses said.
"I no longer have a home to live in," said one evicted resident who, like others, asked not to be named.
"Where is the justice for the protection of the people?" asked another. "They don't help the people, but they come to destroy the people. I saved money from one cent to build the house, for 20 years."
Police fired around 27 canisters of tear gas, according to a statement by the rights group Adhoc.
"I protected my house," said a third resident. "When they forced me out, I refused. They stoned me in the head."
Russei Keo District Chief Khlang Hout said the forces were carrying out a court order.
"The court verdict is an independent power, and we have a duty to cooperate with the court to do this," Khlang Hout said.
Chan Saveth, an investigator for the group, called the eviction "very brutal" and condemned "the carrying out of a court verdict with the blood and tears of the people."
Police arrested 11 people during the eviction, and at least seven were injured, Adhoc said.
Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party, called the eviction "a violation of the people's rights and additional tragedy for them."
"The land problem is more important than the political problem right now, because the land problem is related to personal interests, and [those who take the land] can use all means, through both a company and powerful men, to capture land," Keo Remy said.
The value of land in Cambodia doubled from 2006 to 2007, Adhoc has said.