One Burned, Four Arrested During Eviction

A woman suffered extensive burns to her face and body after her sister set a fire in an attempt to stop police from evicting their family from a Phnom Penh residence yesterday, local officials and police said.

Police arrived at the house in Daun Penh district’s Wat Phnom commune to evict the Soeng family at about 8 a.m., with one of the victim’s sisters setting a piece of a rubber tire on fire in an attempt to keep the officers away, according to Kouch Chamroeun, the district governor.

“She burned the car tire and threatened our forces, saying that if we didn’t stay away, she would burn down the house. Suddenly she threw a piece of tire inside and it hit a gas cooker, which exploded,” he said.

Soeng Ratana, 23, was badly injured in the blast and taken to Calmette Hospital for treatment, he said.

Mr. Chamroeun said the police had been attempting to evict the family on orders from the Supreme Court, but did not know the details of the case.

Police arrested four people at the scene on charges of obstructing a public official, said district police chief Hout Chanyarann, adding that only sisters Soeng Sone and Soeng Samnang remained in custody. Mr. Chanyarann said he did not know which one of them started the fire.

The family of seven has lived in the house for ten years, but after a land dispute with another claimant, they were ordered to leave by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2007, according to Soeur Vanny, a deputy prosecutor who handled the case.

“I tried to implement the verdict in 2007, but the family prevented it,” she said. “The dispute was sent to the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution, but they could not reach an agreement and they sent the case back to court.”

She said she did not know the name of the other claimant to the property.

Ms. Ratana maintained from her hospital bed on Friday that her family owned the house.

“I lived there for many years, so how could we let them take it?” she said.

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