Source: Khmer Times
Eight land activists were detained by Daun Penh security forces yesterday after they attempted to hand over a petition to the World Bank asking the organization to suspend all aid to Cambodia.
The women were gathered at the World Bank office, in central Phnom Penh, with a petition asking that all external grants to Cambodia be halted until the government resolves the many land disputes in the kingdom.
However upon their arrival at 8:30am yesterday, Daun Penh security forces immediately rounded them up and brought them two kilometers north to Wat Phnom.
“When we arrived, they surrounded us, dragged and put us on a truck and sent us to Wat Phnom. They didn’t bring us to the district office so we know that they were only there to prevent us from submitting our petition. It seems the government is restricting our right to protest,” Beoung Kak land rights activist Im Srey Touch claimed.
Ms. Srey Touch along with three former Beoung Kak residents, one current Beoung Kak resident and three Borei Keila residents were detained by the private security detail. The Daun Penh security guards also confiscated two motorcycles belonging to the group which they have not been able to retrieve pending the processing of select legal documents.
Beoung Kak land rights activist Ly Channa said the petition was a last ditch move to pressure the government to take their complaints seriously, because families are only being offered compensation amounting to 10 percent of the value of the land they’ve lost.
However city hall spokesperson Met Meas Pheakdey insisted the activists were detained because they refused to adhere to instructions from the authorities and obstructed the main road used by dignitaries.
“Community members have the right to seek solutions from state institutions. The municipality has tried to meet with them and explain how we can work to resolve their issues,” he said.
Housing Rights Task Force executive director Sia Phearum expressed regret over the actions of the authorities and said the Beoung Kak land dispute, which has been ongoing for 10 years now, needs to be solved immediately.
In 2007, the Phnom Penh governor signed a 99-year lease for Beoung Kak at a throwaway price of $79 million for 133 hectares of land, including the lake’s 90 hectares. Since then, 4,000 families have been forcibly evicted or resettled.