Housing Rights Groups Call for the Release of 13 S’ville Villagers

Several housing rights groups on July 2 urged Sihanoukville Mun­icipal Court to immediately re­lease 13 villagers arrested during a large-scale melee with armed for­ces who bulldozed and burned more than 100 homes during a forced eviction in Mittapheap district in late April.

Bridges Across Borders, the Housing Rights Task Force and the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions wrote in a joint statement that the villagers, who are to be tried July 3 and July 4 for allegedly causing intentional bodily harm and destroying police property, are innocent.

“We call on the government to im­­mediately drop the charges against the 13 villagers, who were doing nothing more than defending their houses and families from violent attack,” Phann Sithan, sen­ior officer for the Housing Rights Task Force, alleged in the statement.

Local rights group Licadho also is­sued a statement calling for further investigation into the part played by Sihanoukville authorities in the violence during the eviction.

“Further investigation needs to be conducted to establish the re­sponsibility of the authorities in causing the violence that oc­cur­red,” the statement said. Siha­nouk­ville court Judge Taing Sun Lay de­clin­ed to comment on the statements or the case until after it is heard in court.

“I don’t know how I will rule until I have heard the prosecutor’s case against [the villagers],” he said.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak, who has previously defended the role of the authorities in the eviction, declined to comment and re­ferred questions to the court.


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