A bad day for land rights and human rights in Cambodia:
- Thursday, 24 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Thirteen women hauled into police vehicles during a demonstration at Boeung Kak lake on Tuesday were being held without charge at Phnom Penh police headquarters last night.
About 70 Boeung Kak villagers rallied outside Phnom Penh municipal court yesterday in support of the arrested women, who they thought were being held inside.
“I received information that the court has charged them with inciting our 18 families to take the land [at Boeung Kak] illegally,” said Ly Chanary, 39, who was evicted from her house at Boeung Kak in 2010.
“I think it is a very unjust accusation [because] we have not [received] any compensation or a solution.”
Police arrested the group, which included a 67-year-old, on Tuesday after officers tore down a wooden frame the villagers had erected where their houses once stood.
Eighteen families evicted from Boeung Kak in 2010 to make way for a $72 million development by Shukaku, a company owned by CPP senator Meng Khin, had vowed to rebuild on Tuesday, resulting in about 200 police being deployed.
Heng Mom, one of the 13 women who remained in custody last night, told the Post by telephone that she did not know how long she would be behind bars.
“Daun Penh governor Sok Sambath had accused us of encouraging the 18 families to build houses on their land illegally,” she said. “We have already denied this to police.”
Sok Sambath could not be reached for comment.
Phnom Penh Police commissioner Touch Naroth defended the arrests, saying the women shouted obscenities at his officers.
Touch Naroth said, however, that it was not up to police to charge the women – that role lay with the court prosecutor, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Am Sam Ath, senior technical officer at human rights group Licadho, said that suggestions the detainees were guilty of incitement was distorting what they had really been doing: looking for a solution to their housing problems.
“I appeal to the authority to release these 13 women,” he said.
In a similar incident, Phnom Penh municipal police detained more than 30 women and children during an eviction protest in January.
The detainees, from Borei Keila, were held without charge for a week at a social affairs centre before they climbed the walls and fled.
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya firstname.lastname@example.org