Scuffle Ensues During Protest Outside World Bank Office

Women from the Boeng Kak and Borei Keila communities in Phnom Penh were met with a heavy-handed security presence on Thursday during a protest outside the World Bank’s office calling for the lender to maintain its freeze on funding to Cambodia.

In two project proposals released last month, the Bank suggested that it was preparing to lift its funding freeze—imposed after the forced evictions of thousands of families from the Boeng Kak lake area beginning in 2009—by March.

Government security guards attempt to drag a protester away from the World Bank's office in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Satoshi Takahashi)
Government security guards attempt to drag a protester away from the World Bank’s office in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Satoshi Takahashi)

Arriving at the Bank’s office at about 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, some 50 protesters faced off with dozens of Daun Penh district security guards as police and military police looked on.

The guards pushed and pulled the women, lifting some of them off the ground, in an attempt to move them away from the World Bank’s country headquarters on Norodom Boulevard and onto Street 240.

Chum Ngann, one of the protesters, said they wanted the Bank to cancel its plans to resume lending to the country, as the government has yet to reach an agreement with some of the families whose evictions led to the freeze, which was made public in 2011.

“We want the World Bank not to give loans to the government because they violated the residents’ rights and forced us to leave,” she said. “The World Bank must be responsible because they gave the loan to the government for development and it affected our living.”

The Bank’s position, laid out in a previous letter to evicted communities, is that their grievances should be taken up with relevant government ministries.

Khim Vutha, head of the district security guards, told the protesters that they might have more luck convincing the Bank if they tried new tactics.

“Because all of you disturb them, that is why they do not intervene in the way you want,” Mr. Vutha said. “You want a resolution, but you are marching, blocking the road, beating on buckets, yelling with microphones and ignoring the officials.”

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