Amnesty Slams ‘Excessive Force’ of S’ville Eviction

London-based rights group Am­nesty International released a statement Tuesday condemning the April 20 eviction of hundreds of villagers from disputed land in Siha­noukville’s Mittapheap district.

“Police forcibly evicted 117 families…and destroyed their homes,” the Amnesty statement read. “The police reportedly used excessive force during the eviction and several people on both sides were injured.”

“Forced evictions are a grave violation of a range of human rights,” the statement continued. “As a state party to the International Cove­nant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Cambodia is re­quired not to evict anyone without adequate notice, prior consultation, due pro­cess of law and assurances of adequate alternative accommodation.”

Amnesty International claimed that the authorities failed to address any of these concerns before or after the eviction, which left hundreds homeless.

Early in the morning of April 20 around 150 armed police and military police attempted to clear the land but met resistance from a few dozen villagers.

After the ensuing melee, 13 villagers—including one minor—were arrested for destruction of police property and battery with injury. Homes were burned to the ground and police knocked down the rest, though they denied starting the fire.

Sihanoukville Municipal Gover­nor Say Hak denied the claims in Amnesty International’s statement. He said that villagers were repeatedly told to vacate the land prior to the eviction because it belonged to other people.

“Our police actually did not use excess violence or abuse anyone’s human rights,” Say Hak said. “Not one villager was injured by a policeman,” he claimed.

Say Hak said that the authorities were actually lenient with the villagers, because their allegedly illegal occupation of the land meant that all of them could have been arrested. “I have no ability to find new ac­commodations for the land grabbers,” he said of the villagers. “It would encourage future land grabbing in my municipality.”

There could be more arrests over the incident, but it is up to the court, which is still investigating, Say Hak added.

Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, said that police injured villagers during the eviction. She said that doctors from her organization per­sonally tended to an elderly man who is still hospitalized from injuries sustained during the eviction and two of the arrested villagers who had several open wounds.

She added that Licadho lawyers had secured the release on bail of the 16-year-old villager arrested during the eviction. The remaining 12 detained villagers were denied bail by the court, she said.

Villager representative Thach, 49, who declined to give his full name for fear of being arrested, said by telephone Thursday that the situation for the remaining villagers was getting worse by the day.

He added that the evicted villagers—who are currently living under tents 150 meters from their former homes—were running low on food and that many children and elderly people were falling ill.

 

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