Police Raids Drive Flood Victims Back Home

With dazed faces and straw mats jutting out of their windows, packed mini-vans left Phnom Penh for the provinces Thursday, carrying home a host of flood victims who finally gave up hope their government would help them.

“I’ve got nothing and yesterday I got three injuries from the police,” said Kheam Khuon, 39, as he leaned out the window of a mini-van brimming with 24 people bound for Koh Kong pro­vince. The exodus was sparked by a police raid Wednesday afternoon on the villagers encampment outside Wat Botum. Police drove them from the camp and confiscated mats, mosquito nets and plastic tarpaulins.

After the raid, many of those who came to Phnom Penh seeking help found themselves leaving in fear.

“I don’t dare come here again,” Kheam Khuon said before the long trip home.

Those who stayed in Phnom Penh after Wednesday’s raid saw another police action Thursday eve­ning, when they were driven out of Wat Svay Pope, near Sam Rainsy Party headquarters. As of Thursday evening, the remaining group of approximately 250 was gathered in front of Sam Rainsy Party headquarters with, many said, little idea of where to go.

Prime Minister Hun Sen ad­dressed the issue of the provincial flood victims saying in a radio address Thursday that he has little sympathy for the villagers.

The prime minister said he feels “no responsibility for those who station themselves in front of the National Assembly and die there because they come to beg for rice.”

He also made reference to Sam Rainsy’s Aug 22 demonstration, in which the opposition leader led a crowd of 600 flood victims and displaced farmers to the gates of international NGOs.

“The protest was led by the opposition. So I appeal to them to storm the opposition party office, sleep there and eat there,” the premier said.

Flood victims in Wat Svay Pope Thursday said none of the political parties has given them any help. The human rights organization Lichado donated 5 kg of rice to each person inside the pagoda just before police drove the group out.


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