Police and military police beat demonstrators, destroyed their houses and confiscating their belongings in Poipet Tuesday during a court-ordered eviction on land belonging to Rural Development Minister Lu Laysreng, officials and witnesses said.
About 100 police and a court official went at 11:00 am to the site of the 5-year-old dispute in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet commune to carry out an eviction ordered by the Supreme Court last month, Poipet commune chief Hay Nam Heng said Tuesday.
Lu Laysreng said he bought 5 hectares of land legally in 1992, while villagers said they settled there in 1997.
Authorities were met by about 200 protesters from 250 families ordered to leave the land. Police and military police kicked and beat protesters, forcibly removing them from their houses, Hay Nam Heng said.
“It was cruel to carry out the court verdict. They moved people’s houses and kicked and beat people,” Hay Nam Heng said. Police also confiscated telephones and cameras from reporters and human rights workers, he added.
Kong Sovey, a reporter for the Khmer newspaper Thngei Nis, said he was handcuffed at gunpoint after taking a picture of police and military police pushing a woman into a muddy ditch.
“They confiscated my camera, tape recorder, cassette and telephone. They destroyed my film,” Kong Sovey said. After forcibly removing the people, workers began clearing their houses and removing their belongings, Kong Sovey said.
However, O’Chrou district police chief Nuth Ly said police and military police did not use force on people, detain reporters nor confiscate their belongings.
“We do not detain reporters or beat people. We just asked reporters to leave the site because we were worried about their safety,” Nuth Ly said.
Lu Laysreng, former minister of information, defended the events, saying they were the outcome of due legal process.
“I am sorry for what happened to the people today. I did not want it to happen but this is the court’s decision,” he said Tuesday.
Lu Lysreng said he had legal title to the land, and that his claim was confirmed by provincial, appeals and supreme courts, which all ruled in his favor.
“I admit there are some officials and some people who confiscate other people’s land…. I do not confiscate anybody’s land. They confiscate my land,” he said.