Four vendors at Battambang province’s Thma Koul market were beaten and arrested while resisting eviction on New Year’s Eve night by police and military police, a rights worker said.
The market vendors, many of whom have been working at Thma Koul since the 1980s, have been protesting the eviction notice they were served Dec 27 stating that the market would be closed as of Jan 1.
The vendors were instructed to relocate to a new market nearly 1 km away where they have to buy 10-year leases on stalls for $2,000.
Chhim Savuth, a Cambodian Center for Human Rights investigator, said Tuesday that 40 police and military police arrived at the market late Monday and began dismantling market stalls and erecting a metal fence around the market.
“They shot two bullets into the air. No one was injured by the shooting,” he said, but one vendor, Run Sros, 20, was beaten on the head with a baton and then arrested.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Run Sros, Huot Kim Hay, 23, Ning Poly, 24 and Luy Sambath, 31, were still in detention, Chhim Savuth said.
“No law states that any removal or eviction has to be done at midnight. It was not business hours. They should implement [their action] before 5 pm. Police violated the law,” he said.
Thma Koul district Governor Ouch Eang and district police chief Koy Kosal both said by telephone Tuesday that the four arrested were just “gangsters” who had gathered outside the market to drunkenly carouse.
Ouch Eang claimed the only reason police went to the market on Monday night was because of the drunken villagers. He also claimed that police built the fence around the market on Tuesday during the day and were helping vendors take apart their stalls upon request.
“Vendors dismantled their stalls voluntarily,” he said.
Koy Kosal denied that his officers beat anyone.
Vendor Yin Ra, who has been protesting the market eviction, said Tuesday that with the construction of the fence any last hope of remaining at Thma Koul has been quashed.
“I have no choice except to move from the market because the fences are built around the market,” he said, adding that those arrested were a mix of vendors and relatives of vendors.