Residents taking part in a training course to organize a local community group in Phnom Penh’s threatened Boeng Kak lake area have accused a village chief of threatening them for participating.
About 70 residents of Boeng Kak’s Village Number 6, which is earmarked for eviction, were taking part in the meeting Tuesday morning when village chief Chan Soriya turned up shouting in protest and taking photographs, said Chuon Ly, 40, the owner of the house where the meeting was held.
“The village chief asked me and the villagers, ‘why did you arrange the course and meeting without asking permission from me? If you do it again, you will face the law,’” Chuon Ly said.
Hang Malai, a participant in the meeting, said about 30 residents left after the village chief showed up.
“Some villagers left for home because they were afraid,” Hang Malai said, adding that she had attended the community group meeting only out of curiosity.
Communities around Boeng Kak lake have been told they must vacate the area, which is the focus of a massive project that involves a private firm filling the lake with sand to create land for residential and commercial development.
Chan Soryia denied threatening the participants, adding that he had simply told them to ask permission for such a gathering.
“They should ask me for permission because they live under my control,” he said.
The village chief also said he had taken photographs of the participants to report on the event to the commune’s chief.
Bun Rachana, an official with the Human Rights Task Force, which organized the meeting to teach people about their rights, said the village chief was out of line: “I think he threatened us, which is against Constitutional law.”