Thursday, 05 May 2011 15:02Thik Kaliyann
Siem Reap province
An investigation has been launched into a clash that broke out when Apsara Authority officials destroyed a toilet block illegally constructed within Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap last week.
Rights group Licadho spokesman No Phothy said yesterday they were investigating complaints that officials had brawled with villagers, who were brandishing sticks and knives, during an hour-long Apsara Authority raid in Khnar Sandai Commune’s Banteay Srei village last week.
“Some of these charges are serious, including allegations a villager was assaulted and money stolen from a home during the confrontation. We will send this complaint to court if we find sufficient evidence,” he said.
Last week, blind villager Hok Vet told The Post that he had been beaten and had US$2,500 stolen from him during the raid. Apsara has denied both allegations.
Yesterday Hok Vet’s wife, Lin Neng Khoni, reiterated the claims and said she had filed complaints over the incident to the rights groups Licadho and Adhoc.
“When the Apsara Authority raided my house, the villagers protected themselves with knives and sticks because the police were threatening us with guns in their hands. I can’t believe the explanation Apsara Authority is offering,” she said.
She added police had rejected a complaint she tried to file and said she feared retribution after sighting Apsara Authority officials returning to photograph villagers.
“It’s completely unjust, I’m concerned that we will be targeted for speaking out but I really want to see justice done,” she said. Apsara Authority spokesman Yeang Savoeun yesterday denied any illegal actions had taken place during the raid.
“We welcome the investigation as there has been no wrongdoing on our part,” he said.
“The only people armed with guns were the police escorting us, who always carry firearms. At no stage did they threaten any villagers with their use.”
No Phothy, however, said that Apsara officials should have sought a legal solution to the dispute rather than resorting to confrontation.
Yeang Savoeun said the Apsara Authority were only authorised to conduct the raid after an official verbal warning to cease construction was ignored.
“In this case we warned the owner of the building to stop the construction as he had no permit, but we were ignored. Our mandate from the government forces us to act if the owner refused to apply for the proper permits.”