City Hall Security Guards Tear Up Petition at Land Rights Protest

About 80 activists from Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila and Boeng Kak communities protested outside City Hall on Monday morning, but were confronted by municipal security guards who prevented them from delivering a petition to the governor.

Sar Soun, a representative of families from the Borei Keila community who have been living in temporary shelters since they were evicted two years ago, said protestors simply wanted to tell municipal governor Pa Socheatvong that uncollected garbage was making living conditions in the area intolerable.

“Today, we came to submit a petition and photographs to push City Hall into taking action against this garbage problem. The government’s policy is to keep Phnom Penh clean, but in my community, which is right in the middle of the city, the place is full of rubbish,” she said.

When community representatives tried to gain entry to City Hall to deliver the petition, security guards quickly snatched the documents and confiscated loudspeakers before pushing and kicking the crowd of mostly women and elderly protestors into the road.

“When we arrived here, security forces dressed in black who we could not identify who cracked down on us, grabbed our petitions and kicked us out—one guard kicked me three times,” Ms. Soun said, adding that the protest was called off at about midday.

“We just want City Hall to solve the issue, because children and elderly people are getting sick because of all the rubbish the authorities are refusing to collect.”

Sea Nareth, 57, a former resident of Boeng Kak, said evictees from her community joined the protest Monday as they continue to demand fairer compensation than what they accepted in 2008 and 2009, when they left their homes in the city center to make way for a CPP senator’s development project.

“We need $8,000 more each and to be moved to a new location that is not so diffcult to live in,” she said.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said Mr. Socheatvong was too busy to meet the protesters, but he added that City Hall was aware of their concerns.

“Concerning the garbage at the temporary housing, we are already attending to that problem and the governor is currently cooperating with some NGOs in order to help,” he said. “But we already found a solution for the Boeng Kak community and nothing else will change.”

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