A representative of Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community said he was temporarily detained yesterday by police and security personnel from land developer Phanimex, and forced to thumbprint a document admitting wrongdoing.
Song Soeun, a community activist, said that at about 8 am yesterday, he was collecting villagers’ thumbprints near the development site when about 10 police officers and Phanimex security guards stopped him and took him to the company’s offices, where he was detained for about five hours.
“They locked me inside the Phanimex office,” Mr Soeun said. “They confiscated my phone, because they were afraid I’d call press or human rights groups.”
During the detention, Phanimex chairwoman Suy Sophan allegedly threatened Mr Soeun with jail if he did not apologize to the company and thumbprint a document saying that comments he made at a community prayer ceremony on Wednesday were false.
“I had to apologize to the company and promise to stop encouraging anarchy among the villagers. They forced me to thumbprint the document, saying that if I did not comply, I would be sent to Prey Sar prison,” Mr Soeun said.
Ms Sophan denied that her company had detained Mr Soeun but admitted Phanimex had “ordered” him to sign the apology.
“We only brought him to the office to educate him and stop him defaming the company,” Ms Sophan said.
Yin San, Prampi Makara district police chief, denied knowledge of Mr Soeun’s alleged detention.
About 384 Borei Keila families have been involved in a years-long land dispute after Phanimex promised in 2003 to provide them with accommodation in exchange for their land. So far, 1,382 families have been found eligible for resettlement, but the remaining 384 families remain in temporary accommodation.
Mr Soeun claimed in a speech at Wednesday’s prayer ceremony that the company did not have enough money to build the required amount of housing and that some apartments were sitting empty.