Soldiers’ attempts on Wednesday to block a road through a military base in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district were met by more than 100 irate residents claiming the move would prevent them from getting to their homes.
Heckling and scuffles between RCAF soldiers and residents of the Tonle Bassac commune squatter camp temporarily stopped troops from erecting concrete poles to block access to the military base, situated between the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel and Norodom Boulevard.
No injuries or arrests were reported, officials said.
Protesters on Wednesday said the only way to reach their homes is to drive through the base. They also claimed they paid money to repair a road inside the base.
“I spent money on 20 truck-loads of earth to repair this road. Now you are trying to close it,” a female protester shouted at RCAF soldiers.
Home to a military communications unit since the late 1980s, the base was taken over last week by infantry troops with orders to stop the public from entering, Meas Sophea, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief, said.
The base has been used as an escape route for criminals living in adjacent squatter areas, Meas Sophea said. He said vehicles will be blocked, but pedestrian routes to the villages will remain open.
“We are continuing to solve this case with the villagers….But we cannot allow anarchy inside [the base],” Meas Sophea said.
Also joining the protest against RCAF were families of soldiers who worked at the communications unit and who were transferred last week from the Chamkar Mon district base to the Tang Krasaing base opposite Pochentong Airport.
Mam Dany, a spokesman for the communications unit, said the soldiers fear RCAF officials are preparing to clear the Chamkar Mon base of their wives and families, who still live there.
RCAF Lieutenant Nhiep Sabean said Wednesday that many members of the communications unit died or were injured in fighting against the Khmer Rouge in Pailin and their loyalty should be repaid by allowing their families to remain.