Locals Near Thai Embassy Voice Concerns

Two days after a violent clash with police and civilians, families living on the riverbank near the new Thai Embassy off Norodom Boulevard expressed concerns about their security.

The villagers said Sunday mun­icipal police have threatened to arrest them if they organize another demonstration and that their houses would be burned down if they make more trouble.

“After they closed the road [on Friday], they threatened us,” said Sok Khem, a longtime resident who helped raise money to build the road in 1996. “We are very worried that the authority might do something against us.”

But So Phan, a deputy with the national police, denied the police threatened the villagers on Friday. A Chamkar Mon district governor concurred.

“Why should we burn their houses? There is no reason to do so,” said Kuch Chamroeun, district’s deputy governor. He also denied human rights officials claims that thugs from a local squatter village were hired Friday to tear down two houses and make trouble.

Military and municipal police Friday closed the 100-meter-long road, the only road access for the villagers to Norodom Boulevard. A clash between men dressed in civilian clothes and about 100 protesters left one villager cut badly across the head and two houses knocked down. Two villagers were detained by police. Several police officials received minor injuries, according to police.

Representatives of the 180 families in Village 10 are scheduled to appear in city court today for a pre-trial hearing on their request to keep the road open.

Municipal and Thai Embassy officials claim that the road is part of the new embassy compound and the two houses infringed on embassy land.

A Thai Embassy official said Sunday that the embassy bought a piece of land from the municipality in 1992 and received a land title certificate for it in early 1993. The embassy and the municipality agreed to allow families living in Village 10 to use the road until it was necessary to be closed for construction, the official said.

“Our construction has already delayed for three months,” said the Thai Embassy official. He said the embassy notified the municipality that the road needed to be closed for the final phase of the construction. “The municipality did it on Friday according to our original agreement.”

Heng Watha, cabinet chief of the municipality, said Sunday that the two houses were torn down because the owners didn’t agree with the municipality’s offer on compensation. “There was no other choice,” he said, adding the municipality paid $7,250 to each owner on Saturday for compensation.

Family members and neighbors denied they received compensation. Instead, they claimed that they were forced to pay authorities $100 for the two owners to be released from detention.

By Sunday morning, a temporary wall that bordered between the road and the embassy was removed and two entrances were completely covered by metal walls. Villagers now are required to walk almost 1 km down a narrow foot path to get to the main road.



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