Villagers facing eviction due to the planned expansion of the Phnom Penh International Airport were blocked from marching to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house Monday, but eventually succeeded in delivering a petition to a representative of the prime minister’s cabinet.
At 9 a.m., about 50 police officers and Chamkar Mon district security guards blocked an equal number of demonstrators at the corner of Street 51 and Sihanouk Boulevard. After about an hour of pushing and shoving, the protesters agreed to take a roundabout route to Wat Botum park, where they delivered their petition to Kong Chamroeun, a secretary in Mr. Hun Sen’s cabinet.
Kao Sovan, a representative of the community from Pur Senchey district’s Thma Koul neighborhood, where some 600 families are facing eviction, said the community was still waiting for a response to a petition it delivered to the prime minister four months ago.
“Our purpose for coming here today is to ask Mr. Kong Chamroeun about the previous petition that we submitted on October 27, 2014. Where is the solution?” Mr. Sovan said, adding that the treatment of the protesters in the morning was “inhumane.”
“Authorities were pushing old people and land dispute victims to the ground like it was a game,” he said.
Mr. Chamroeun told the group they would have to continue waiting for a response.
“I cannot answer you right now. We need to do some research first,” he said.
Thma Koul residents previously garnered attention by spray-painting “SOS” on their rooftops when dignitaries were expected to be flying overhead.
In November 2012, eight community activists were arrested and released—ostensibly for posing a security threat—for adorning their rooftops with “SOS” along with photographs of U.S. President Barack Obama the week before he attended a regional summit in Phnom Penh.
In November, community members attempted to pull off the same stunt when Mr. Hun Sen was scheduled to return from the Asean Summit in Burma.