Phnom Penh, 22 April 2013 – At 8 am on the morning of April 22, 2013, around 80 former Boeung Kak Lake residents staged a protest in front of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Phnom Penh. They were requesting that the party president, H.E. Chea Sim, help them solve their longstanding land conflict with Shukaku Inc., a politically connected company that has begun work on a multi-million dollar development where their homes once stood. The former residents have been given inadequate compensation and have been repeatedly harassed and intimidated by the authorities. The protesters were also demanding the release of Yorm Bopha, a former Boeung Kak resident and prominent activist jailed in December 2012 on charges widely perceived as baseless. There is very thin evidence connecting her with the crime she is purported to have committed and her sentence is likely related to her advocacy work.
At about 8.30am, a CPP representative came to accept a petition dating from January 17 2013, presented by 16 representatives of the community, including Ms. Tep Vanny- a leading figure in the Boeung Kak community and winner of the 2013 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award. No promises were made to the protesters and they were told to leave.
The protesters were disappointed with CPP inaction and decided to demonstrate outside the Prime Minister’s House at the intersection of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards, by the Independence Monument. They were blocked en route by approximately 200 members of the security forces, including police, some in riot gear; military police and other security personnel not wearing their uniforms. They were forced to halt 500 meters from the Prime Minister’s House.
The road block was strong along Norodom Boulevard, with double fences and several layers of security forces to prevent the protesters from moving forward. However, the protesters managed to make slow progress and push nearer to the Prime Minister’s House. One female protester claimed she lost her necklace in tussles with the security forces. She asked not to be named.
At Independence Monument the protesters faced another stronger roadblock, consisting mainly of riot police and Khan Daun Penh security forces. The protesters were crying and begging to meet the Prime Minister in order to ask for his help. The security forces pushed back against the protesters and prevented them from moving closer in a stand-off that lasted two hours. There were some people observed to be aiding the security forces. They appeared to be gang members. They were used in the front line against the protesters. Some of them used the sharp point of their car or motorbike keys to stab at the protesters. ADHOC’s monitors saw this and challenged them until they fled the scene.
One female protester was injured leaving her face bloody when it was cut by a riot police officer’s shield. There were other minor injuries. The presence of NGO monitors appeared to give protesters more confidence to continue to demonstrate, while the police seemed hesitant to use excessive force and foul language toward the protesters.
The protesters were unsuccessful in reaching the Prime Minister’s House and returned home at 2pm. They were exhausted from the heat and their continued opposition and corralling by the security forces.
For more information please contact:
Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Human Rights and Legal Aid Section, 011274959
Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant, 092648318