Truck on Road to Dey Krahorm Set Ablaze

Yet another standoff at Dey Kra­horm community in Phnom Penh culminated in a truck owned by the Tonle Bassac commune authority being set ablaze Monday night.

Police, commune officials and 7NG—the company looking to develop the city center site where residents are facing eviction—say members of the Dey Krahorm community were responsible, but residents and rights activists say 7NG workers were around the truck when it burst into flames.

The incident took place during a third consecutive night of confrontations between residents and 7NG company workers, as military police looked on without intervening.

According to eyewitnesses, more than 100 angry residents from the Dey Krahorm community and surrounding areas attempted to stop 7NG workers from barricading an entrance road with oil drums on Monday night. In the ensuing confrontation both sides hurled rocks at each other.

According to witnesses, at around 10:45 pm the electricity was cut and a few minutes later the truck, which was located near the oil-drum barricade, exploded into flames. Two fire trucks arrived within 10 minutes to douse the fire as 7NG workers photographed the scene.

Chamkar Mon district police chief Ouch Sokhon claimed that people from Dey Krahorm had com­mitted the arson attack.

“We are investigating and pre­paring a case against those who did it,” he said.

However, Dey Krahorm resident Phuon Sophat, 48, denied this. “The people had backed off before the fire happened,” he said.

According to 7NG chairman Srey Sothea, the incident had nothing to do with his workers.

The truck was part of a barricade being set up to restrict the flow of goods to a market at the corner of Dey Krahorm, he said. Officials have said that the market area is going to be converted into a park.

“[The people] threw stones and set fire to the truck,” Srey Sothea claimed.

Tonle Bassac commune chief Khat Sarith backed up 7NG’s version of events. “We are trying to block the road so we can build the park but they got angry and burnt the truck,” he said.

A Tuesday statement by local rights group Licadho accused au­­thor­ities of deliberately provoking an extremely volatile situation.

“The company and the authorities seem to be playing a very dan­­­gerous game of trying to in­cite disorder by the community at any cost, in order to be able to blame them for whatever oc­curs,” Licadho Director Naly Pil­orge said.

At least 13 residents, including six community representatives, already face criminal charges in relation to property damage or other alleged crimes against the 7NG company or local authorities during the months-long standoff, according to the statement.

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