More than 100 representatives from communities around the country embroiled in land disputes, some facing eviction, gathered at the site of Phnom Penh’s former Dey Krahorm community Sunday to mark International Women’s Day.
The representatives, calling themselves the Community for Peace Network, along with local rights group Licadho, appealed to the government not to handle their land disputes the way the Phnom Penh Municipality handled the Dey Krahorm community.
At least 50 families were forcibly evicted Jan 24 from Dey Krahorm by regular and military police using tear gas, batons and water cannons.
Licadho President Kek Galabru, whose group organized the event, said after the ceremony that they chose International Women’s Day to highlight the effects forced evictions have on women and children across the country.
“We want to link Women’s Day to raise awareness of their difficul-
ties stemming from previous evictions,” she said. “We appeal to government officials and companies to stop evicting poor villagers be-cause after the eviction, they are poorer.”
Pha Rom, 56, a resident from the area of Boeng Kak lake, which is being filled in with sand for a development project that could see the eviction of more than 4,000 families, said she attended the demonstration because she fears suffering the same fate as Dey Krahorm residents.
“I don’t want City Hall authorities to use the same administrative action with other communities as they did with Dey Krahorm,” she said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said by telephone that he was unaware of Sunday’s ceremony, but congratulated the participants for choosing to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“It is their right to have a celebration ceremony, and I also congratulate them,” he said, but added that he stands by City Hall’s handling of past evictions.
“Whatever we have done is in-tended to help them,” he said. “We listen to them, and we will not act like in Pol Pot’s era.”