S’ville Evictees Protest Outside National Assembly

Approximately 100 Sihanoukville residents who were forcibly evicted by police and soldiers on April 20 gathered outside the National As­sembly on Monday seeking government intervention in their land dispute with Sihanoukville authorities.

Rallying in the park opposite the National Assembly, the protesters chanted “we are now homeless people—help us, help us.”

They handed out copies of a 14-page petition, thumb-printed by 96 evicted people from Mittapheap district, with pictures showing the residents’ homes burning and 13 Pram Muoy villagers being arrested following a violent melee with police. The petition called for the release of the 13 detainees, compensation for the residents’ de­stroyed homes and the return of the disputed land.

The 13 men have been charged at Sihanoukville Municipal Court with intentionally causing bodily harm and destruction of police and military property during the eviction. Villagers have claimed that officials stormed the village from three sides and fired volleys from AK47s before striking an elderly villager in the head with a baton.

Police have denied starting the fire and said they only defended themselves after villagers attacked them.

Nguon Nhel, CPP lawmaker and deputy first president of the National Assembly, said parliament will accept the villagers’ petition and forward it on to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“The prime minister will assign the relevant ministry and the local authorities to study the case,” he said. “If the authorities take land from the people illegally, they must return it to the people,” he added.

The protesters declined to give their names to a reporter for fear of reprisals. One villager said tarpaulins that the evicted residents have erected for shelter have collapsed under the weekend’s heavy rains.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak could not be reached for comment.

 

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