Evictees Prevented From Screening Video to Mark Anniversary

About 100 former members of the Dey Krahorm community returned to the site of their brutal eviction in central Phnom Penh on Saturday afternoon to mark six years since they were forced off their land, but were prevented by authorities from screening a video of the events around their removal.

Chan Vichet, 36, a former Dey Krahorm resident who organized the planned screening, said police began patrolling the street next to the gathering, which was held near the eviction site in Chamkar Mon district, at about 4 p.m.

Residents of the Dey Krahorm community clash with police on the morning of January 24, 2009, the day of their violent eviction. (Nicolas Axelrod)
Residents of the Dey Krahorm community clash with police on the morning of January 24, 2009, the day of their violent eviction. (Nicolas Axelrod)

“We prepared to show a video about the eviction,” he said. “But more than 10 police in a small truck…warned us by megaphone that they would take action if we showed a video.”

“I think that authorities violated the rights of the people because they prevented us from giving our opinion,” he added.

Sok Sam Uth, chief of police in Tonle Basac commune, where the Dey Krahorm community once stood, said he sent his officers to prevent the screening after receiving an order from district governor Prum Samkhan.

“We did not stop those people from holding a ceremony to mark the sixth anniversary [of their eviction], but we just instructed them not to show a video because this was the order from the district governor,” he said.

Mr. Samkhan said he banned the screening because the group had failed to obtain authorization to show the footage.

“We banned them from showing a video because they did not have permission from City Hall,” he said.

Mr. Vichet, the organizer of the event, said he had compiled the video by downloading clips from organizations that had posted scenes from the eviction online.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said officials had no legitimate reason to stop Saturday’s screening from going ahead.

“But if authorities do not allow those people to show the video, it means they are scared of their shadows,” he said.

In the early hours of January 24, 2009, hundreds of police and military police, along with hundreds of demolition workers, moved in on the homes of residents who had refused to accept the compensation being offered by City Hall and private developer 7NG.

Over the course of that morning, police clashed with the remaining residents while construction vehicles tore down their homes.

The municipality justified the forced removal by claiming it was a “last resort” used against residents who were unwilling to accept compensation and move out.

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