Eviction Activists Stage Roadblock at City Hall

About 50 anti-eviction demonstrators blocked all traffic up and down Monivong Boulevard in front of City Hall for most of Wednesday, trying to force a meeting with governor Pa Socheatvong.

Most of the protesters were among the approximately 3,000 families who have been evicted from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak area and wanted to meet with the governor to demand that the city supplement the modest compensation they received for leaving their homes.

Women protesting the eviction of thousands of families from Phnom Penh's Boeng Kak neighborhood set fire to tires Wednesday in front of City Hall during their third straight day of demonstrations. (Siv Channa)
Women protesting the eviction of thousands of families from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood set fire to tires Wednesday in front of City Hall during their third straight day of demonstrations. (Siv Channa)

During the protest, they used the government’s own barricades to block the road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., tying them together using anti-eviction banners.

“Today we see clearly that Pa Socheatvong is not willing or able to resolve the issue,” Im Sreytouch, one of the evictees, said through a megaphone. “If you are not able to help the people, we don’t need you.”

Accompanied by a drum and banging pots, the protesters also set fire to several tires in the street, sending thick plumes of black smoke over City Hall.

At about 4 p.m., CNRP President Sam Rainsy arrived to meet with the protesters, but he also, at Interior Minister Sar Kheng’s request, asked them to leave the road.

Mr. Rainsy told the protesters he would bring thousands of aggrieved garment factory workers to join their anti-eviction protest at City Hall today. But he added that provoking the police to violence also risked provoking a violent response to the thousands of anti-government protesters the CNRP has been marshaling at nearby Freedom Park.

Tep Vanny, one of the anti-eviction protest leaders, disagreed with Mr. Rainsy and refused to pull back the barricades. The protesters ended the roadblock less than an hour later, however, as City Hall workers were ending their shift.

Contacted afterward, Mr. Socheatvong said he had invited protesters to meet him inside City Hall, but the offer was rejected. He also dismissed their demand for his resignation. “Why do I have to respect the protesters’ request? I won’t comment on it,” he said.

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