NGO and SRP: Protesters Cleared From Park

The park opposite the National Assembly was empty on Sunday. There was no trace of the hundreds of poor villagers from across the country, who until Friday had for months camped here in protest over land disputes in the provinces.

Their tent city is gone. Their shallow campfire pits are filled. Rubbish that had littered the park has been swept away.

NGO and opposition party officials say police pressured some pro­testers to return to their prov­inces. Others villagers have fled the park, seeking refuge in pagodas, at Sam Rainsy Party headquarters or with relatives.

For months, about 500 villagers from across Cambodia have stream­ed into the park to protest land grabs, saying they would not leave until their land was returned.

But on Wednesday, Daun Penh district deputy governor Seng Sovannara said villagers had two days to clear out. And when police arrived later that day, villagers began to scatter into the city.

Many headed to Sam Rainsy Party headquarters, where some of the protesters have been sleeping since Wednesday night, said opposition party member Mu Sochua.

“Up to 200 people come and go,” she said. “They can stay as long as it takes at party headquarters, but we are not equipped at all [to care for them] and we are very concerned.”

One villager who declined to give her name and who is hiding with about 20 families in a Cham­kar Mon district pagoda, said they were fearful of being found.

The group from Sihanoukville had been protesting in the park since December. Police forced them to leave the park on Friday, she said.

“People feel scared to speak out. Others are in hiding elsewhere,” she added. “We are waiting. We have no idea what to do next.”

Seang Kosol, Sihanoukville deputy police chief in charge of public order, said he was not aware that Sihanoukville protesters had been forced from the park, and referred all questions to Municipal Governor Say Hak.

Say Hak shut off his phone when asked about the villagers.

 

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