Residents threatened with eviction from the Boeung Kak lake area protest outside City Hall in Phnom Penh on Friday.
Monday, 28 March 2011 15:03 Chhay Channyda and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Boeung Kak lake residents will once again seek a meeting with Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema today, after being forcibly turned away by police during an attempt on Friday.
Lakeside residents submitted a written request for a meeting on Friday through the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, seeking to discuss their proposal to set aside 15 hectares of the 133-hectare development for local villagers, and said City Hall had returned the letter with an official stamp.
Tep Vanny, a representative for more than 1,500 households facing eviction, said villagers would come to City Hall today seeking a response.
“This is the last chance for [Kep Chuktema] to demonstrate whether he is willing to meet and settle our problem or not,” Tep Vanny said.
“We will continue to ask for intervention from Samdech Prime Minister [Hun Sen] and relevant institutions if he still uses the excuse that he is busy resolving other affairs,” she said.
Kep Chuktema declined to comment yesterday.
On Friday, police armed with riot shields and electric batons subdued a protest by villagers, and hit and temporarily detained one woman.
Protester Kong Chantha said she nearly lost consciousness after a policeman elbowed her in the forehead and forced her into a police car.
She said three trucks of police, lead by Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penhvuth, had descended on the protesters, dispersing the crowd.
“Sok Penhuvuth’s subordinates arrested me as a weak woman protesting to ask for land and a house for my children. They seemed to think I was a prisoner because they caught me and put me into a prisoner car,” she said. “I didn’t rob anyone’s land. They are cracking down on me daily.”
Kong Chantha said she would file a complaint against the police over the incident. Sok Penhvuth declined to comment.
OHCHR staff, present to monitor the event on Friday, helped secure the release of Kong Chantha.
Christophe Peschoux, OHCHR country representative, said his office had written to city officials and the company developing the area, urging them to find a solution by meeting with villagers.
“Two weeks ago, we wrote to the mayor of Phnom Penh, Kep Chuktema, and we wrote to the head of Shukaku and encouraged them to meet with the community on the basis of the options opened by the municipality – either financial compensation, relocation, or on-site upgrading,” Peschoux said. “My understanding is that the community has opted for on-site upgrading.”
He said he has not yet received a response from city officials.
Additional reporting by Thomas Miller