Rek Reay Villagers Say Workers Used Violence

Villagers in the Phnom Penh riverside community of Rek Reay said that they were punched by workers Sunday while trying to protect their land from being cleared by developer Bassac Gar-den City.

Residents of Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac commune neighborhood said that the company’s employees have plowed sand onto their land four times in the past two weeks, including twice Sunday. Community representative Chan Bunthol said that bulldozers were not deterred by a blockade of about 20 villagers Sunday, so the protesters climbed onto the vehicles.

“The company’s workers struck me from behind when our villag-ers tried to stop two bulldozers,” he said.

“The company has hired gangster workers to accompany their bulldozer drivers.”

Mr Chan Bunthol added that the villagers are also considering filing a lawsuit, which they could submit as early as today. “If the company doesn’t stop, our villagers will complain to the court…. We are processing paperwork with our lawyer.”

About 13,456 square meters of land belonging to 55 families is slotted for expansion of a luxury gated community by Bassac Garden City. About 44 families have already accepted $20,000 in compensation and vacated their homes, and a further 110 sold their property to other buyers, representatives said.

On Mar 30, the remaining 55 families agreed to accept housing in apartments planned for the site, but compensation and a demolition plan have not been negotiated.

Residents said that workers had told them the plowing was authorized by Tonle Bassac commune chief Khat Narith, but he disputed that when reached by telephone.

“I have no bulldozers over there, so why does the company blame me?” Khat Narith asked, adding that he was not aware of the confrontation Sunday.

Touch Samnang, project manager for Bassac Garden City, said Sunday that he would not be in-terviewed by telephone.

Rath Kumnith, legal adviser for the project’s financier Canadia Bank, was unavailable to speak with a reporter Sunday, a woman answering his phone said.

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