3rd January 2012
On 3rd January 2012, roughly between the hours of 6am until 11am, armed forces consisting of policemen, military police and the security forces of the Phanimex company, in addition to local authorities and hired workers, raided and destroyed people’s homes, and arrested eleven people at Borei Keila in Phnom Penh, all in the name of development. The arrested people included one underage boy and one woman. The forces defending the company’s development were supported by four fire trucks and two bull dozers, and were equipped with shields, electric batons, fire arms and tear gas; the residents of Borei Keila stood little chance of defending their homes and livelihoods. Both sides threw stones and were injured, including three officers and two hired workers. All the arrested residents were subjected to beatings but the total number of residents injured is unknown.
To date, 1776 families have been adversely affected by the Phanimex Company. In the Borei Keila area, the company received development rights on four hectares of land. The company was obliged, by a contract drawn up with government leaders, to build ten buildings on two hectares of the land in question to be designated as homes for the disadvantaged people. This contract however, has been broken.
The company started to build five years ago but only eight buildings have been erected so far. The people who had not yet been given homes on the site were asked instead to move to Toul Sambo, Sangkat Praeysar, Phnom Bath area, Panghnea Leu district, Kandal province. The remaining 384 families disagreed. They began to complain to the company and in response the company filed criminal complaints against them. Adding to the difficulties, community representatives of the Borei Keila residents were bought by the company, given jobs and land. As a result these community representatives acted against the interests of the people: they inserted new families on the housing list instead of those identified by the contract; they ensured their communities agreed to provide the land on the ground floors of the buildings to accommodate businesses; and they assisted in taking community members accused by the company to the courts.
In response, the residents who did not receive compensation protested against the community representatives and even filed complaints to relevant institutions for resolution. No satisfactory result has been achieved so far. The authorities did not sufficiently investigate or try to solve this problem. The people therefore took action in the form of petitions, demonstrations and blocking roads, etc. The authorities accused the people of being overly demanding. They also accused residents of receiving apartments but selling them to others and then continuing to complain.
If the authorities had practiced timely intervention the use of armed force to evict people might have been avoided and the clash would not have taken place. In the end, 384 families who have been engaged in conflict with the company for almost 8 years, had their homes raided and destroyed by the armed forces of Phnom Penh municipality, and were forced to live in the suburbs of Phnom Penh, as far as thirty kilometres West of the city. The clash between the groups lasted several hours. The armed forces fired guns in the air to threaten the people, used tear gas and threw stones. For the people who dared to protest against the authorities, they used various ways of protecting their homes- throwing stones, using artificial grenades and erecting rubbish piles to block the roads in order to prevent the armed forces from entering their area. Eventually the company forces broke through and destroyed the people’s homes. Even when the people pleaded with them to remove their belongings, the company refused. In the afternoon more than 300 homes were destroyed.
On 4th January 2012, 8am the municipal police transferred eight of the arrested protesters to the municipal courts. These eight detainees were questioned by the prosecutor. Chin Lida, a lawyer from Licadho, filed to defend the detainees before the investigating judge. In the mean time the company sent 16 families to Toul Sambo and more than 100 to Phnom Bath. According to Psar Dek commune authorities, the people from Borei Keila sent to Phnom Bath consisted of 197 families altogether, but only 75 families were recognised by the company and received compensation. The rest the company refused to be responsible for. The conditions at the relocation site are appalling according to RFA interviews. At Borei Keila the company is building a fence around the area and has destroyed seven more old buildings. The people who lived in those buildings negotiated to have more compensation provided. For those who did not receive any compensation they complained in front of various embassies in Phnom Penh and also protested for the release of the eight detainees in front of the court.
It is not the right legal procedure that the authorities cited victory in supporting the company and the bulldozers to destroy the people’s homes and property. Beating the people and making the people cry. All these activities are violated to the rights to life of the people. The violent action of the authorities is a serious human rights violation making more than 300 families homeless, their property lost, and some protesters being arrested and sent to the courts. Forcibly transporting the people on a truck, sent them to the new place without the proper amenities. No reasonable compensation. Unacceptable!
1. The armed forces and authorities should respect protesters’ rights to demonstrate and should release detainees without conditions
2. Conditions at the relocation site should be improved to meet acceptable standards
3. Legal aid should be made available to those whose homes have been destroyed and to detainees
4. Opportunities should be provided to the people to negotiate for reasonable resolutions instead of launching spontaneous forced evictions
5. The incident of the 3rd of January outlined above is in breach of Cambodian law and of International Human Rights Law, and the actions of the armed forces and the Phanimex Company should be thoroughly investigated.
Phnom Penh, 6 January 2012