Three highly venomous cobras were thrown early Tuesday morning into the Phnom Penh home of a family locked in a dispute with a private company that wants to develop the family’s land in Tuol Kok district.
Ly Sreang Kheng, 58, his wife Mok Siv Hong, 51, and their son, Ly Bun Heang, are one of three families refusing to leave a building in Boeng Kak I commune, that was shared by commune council and CPP offices and the families before the government swapped the property with the Khun Sear Import Export Company.
The families have accused representatives from the company, which is owned by businessman Khun Sear, of waging a campaign of intimidation to force them to leave after they turned down $15,000 in compensation.
After the canvas bag containing three snakes was thrown through the window of his property, Mr. Sreang Kheng said he and his wife saw the perpetrator running away and identified him as an employee of Khun Sear’s company who they say has carried out previous attacks, including poisoning their pets.
“I identified this suspect when he was running away because he has tried to hurt my family many times. The situation is very bad and we are very afraid,” he said.
The family used a forked bamboo stick to try to trap the heads of the 1-meter-long cobras, which are extremely aggressive and can spit venom when threatened, but Mr. Sreang Kheng said he decided to club two of the snakes to death instead.
“We spent three hours trying to catch the snakes with the help of local police, and I killed two that weighed about 1 kg each,” he said.
The Housing Rights Task Force and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee on Wednesday released a joint statement condemning the incident and called on the government to prosecute the perpetrators.
“Bringing several dangerous snakes [into] the houses of urban poor families is more than an act of intimidation; it’s a death threat showing the intent to kill…. Since May 2013, the residents had their property destroyed, their business demolished, their physical security threatened and violated, their water pipes and electricity cut off as well as five of their pets killed [while] no real action [was] ever taken by the local authorities against the perpetrators,” the statement says.
Commune chief Vith Darith on Wednesday said that the snakes had probably been living in a nearby bush and got into the property by themselves.
“Nobody put the snakes into their home, they might have come from the nearby bush because a lot of poisonous things live in the bushes.”
Ham Kea, the commune police chief, said police would need to investigate before determining whether the snakes had been thrown or had entered the building of their own accord.