About 20 protesters from three eviction communities around Phnom Penh tore up and burned sarongs they had received from the ruling CPP outside the party’s headquarters on Monday, saying they needed land titles instead.
The protesters from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak, Borei Keila and Thmar Kaul communities arrived at CPP headquarters at about 8 a.m. and began burning incense and praying to the spirits to prevent the ruling party from winning the upcoming national elections.
“This is a gift I received from the CPP in 2007. We don’t need sarongs and food [from the CPP]. What we need is land,” said Tep Vanny, a representative of the Boeng Kak community.
She added that the Boeng Kak community has repeatedly submitted petitions asking for 12.44 hectares of land—granted to them by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2011—to be demarcated for the evictees.
Protesters on Monday also pleaded for the freedom of a Boeng Kak anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha, who was sentenced in December to three years in prison under charges of intentional violence. A dozen sparrows were released to symbolize a call for her freedom, said Leang Seng, a Borei Keila resident.
“We released the birds this time in order to send a message to the government’s relevant institutions to release Yorm Bopha because she did nothing wrong,” Ms. Seng said.
Around mid-morning, Samrith Saron, an adviser to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, stepped outside the headquarters and advised the protesters to take their problems up with the prime minister. “All of you should go and meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen because as I’ve told you, this is a political party and we are not involved with land disputes.”
Dozens of police and military police officers then scuffled with the protesters as they attempted to march to Mr. Hun Sen’s house.
Most of the protesters were manhandled as the police forcefully carried them away from the prime minister’s home. One demonstrator was hit in the head with a shield as she tried to push through a row of security forces.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for Council of Ministers, said the protest was orchestrated by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to make the CPP look bad, a claim that CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann denied.