Two residents of the Borei Keila community remained hospitalized Sunday after a Valentine’s Day clash with authorities on Friday that left 19 people injured, a community representative said.
Although most of the 19 were only slightly injured, two women were more severely hurt and are still receiving treatment at a local clinic, according to community representative Pich Limkhuon.
“This was a Valentine’s Day present from the district governor to Borei Keila residents,” he said of the clash, which occurred after a small group of villagers were kicked off the grounds of an unfinished apartment building they had been occupying to protest their lack of adequate replacement housing after being evicted from the area years ago.
The two badly injured women included Hath Sokchenda, 35, who is seven months pregnant and was kicked by authorities and shocked with an electric baton. Chhai Kimhorn, 35, was also kicked by police and lost consciousness, Mr. Limkhuon said.
However, Sam Sovann, governor of Prampi Makara district, whose district security guards evicted the villagers along with city riot police, disputed Mr. Limkhuon’s characterization of events, accusing unnamed outsiders of “inciting” Borei Keila residents to throw rocks at police.
“First we just invited them to leave that place, because the building belongs to someone else, but they did not listen to us,” he said. “They immediately reported to NGOs that authorities had removed them.
“But we did nothing like what they accused us of. After authorities forced them to leave, a group of people incited Borei Keila people to throw rocks at our authorities, then authorities responded.”
He denied, however, that authorities had any hand in injuring the 19 villagers.
When asked how the villagers had been injured, he responded, “I don’t know.”
Mr. Limkhuon said that Borei Keila residents planned to stage a protest on Wednesday, flouting the city’s ban on public demonstrations to march to Preah Ang Dangker shrine on the riverside carrying a symbolic clod of earth from the disputed area to curse well-connected businesswoman Suy Sophan, whose Phanimex company was granted the land to develop in 2007.
“We will march to the shrine with the piece of land to curse the person who has taken the land, who must be destroyed and never live in peace,” he said.
He also said that Borei Keila residents would attempt to file a complaint against authorities with the International Criminal Court (ICC) next week.
However, Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said the villagers would be better off complaining to the municipal court, as he doubted the ICC had jurisdiction over the Valentine’s Day clash that took place on Friday.
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