Police increased their presence at the Phnom Penh municipal offices yesterday morning, leading to the cancellation of further street protests by residents from the Boeng Kak lake area who are trying to draw attention to their impending eviction.
The demonstration, which would have marked the fourth day of protests outside City Hall, was to have been attended by residents from Village 2 and Village 4 in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune.
Nuon Thon, a resident of Village 4, said Thursday that he and other protestors were warned Wednesday night to halt their demonstration.
“A police official told me that police will arrest us if we protest,” he said.
Sok Penhvuth, Daun Penh deputy district governor, said the police deployment was for the sake of keeping public order. He insisted no one would be arrested unnecessarily by the officers, but that district authorities will continue to provide security for City Hall and prevent demonstrations.
“We have no plan to arrest them, we just educate them if they come. Authorities have never arrested villagers who make no mistakes,” Mr Penhvuth said. “Please do not believe them.”
In addition to the protest, the residents facing eviction had also planned to hold a press conference outside City Hall, which was later relocated to the World Vision office near the intersection of Monivong and Mao Tse Tung boulevards.
During the news conference, the residents unveiled a notice from the Council of Ministers dated August 2007 in which the government stated that if residents elect to receive on-site housing from the development company at Boeng Kak, they will not be evicted.
“The notice of the city confirmed clearly that [in] the contract between City Hall and Shukaku Inc there was not any article about moving houses to the outskirts of the city,” said Pol Tourist, a resident of Village 4 who attended the news conference. Instead, he noted, the letter mentions article 9 of the contract, which states the policy will be to “build houses at the location of investment.”
“City Hall does not respect the Council of Ministers’ notice,” he added.
An agreement with the development company, Shukaku Inc, that the municipal governor’s office is pushing residents to sign would have the residents slated for eviction moved off-site during the four years of expected work building retail and residential units on the filled-in Boeng Kak lake.
The protesting residents want to stay at the lake during the construction phase, and then move into the on-site housing when it is completed.