HRTF Press Release on the April 21st protest

HRTF Press Release
Beating and Detention of eleven Boeung Kak lake villagers and Children
April 21, 2011

The Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) strongly condemns the violence used earlier today against peaceful BoeungKak lake protesters and the arrest of 11 villagers – including young children – in front of the Phnom Penh municipal cabinet. At around 8:30AM, about 100 villagers from the BoeungKak lake gathered in front of the Phnom Penh municipal cabinet to attempt once again to meet authorities to discuss two issues: i) to stop the lake filling causing flooding in the area, and ii) to stop evictions until authorities enter into negotiations with the villagers and reach an agreement with the affected residents.As the peaceful protest unfolded, about 80 armed anti-riot police and about 30 military police officers came in and circled the villagers. As the peaceful protest unfolded, about 80 armed anti-riot police and about 30 military police officers came in and circled the villagers. At 9:30 AM, a group of Phnom Penh municipal and Daun Penh district authorities, led by Phnom Penh Municipal Cabinet Deputy Chief KeutChhay andDaun Penh district governor SokSambath, came out to ask for the villagers to return home, ignoring the villagers’ requests for discussion. The villagers refused to leave and repeated their demands for their grievances to be heard. Shortly after, the police brought in their van and arrested an initial group of six villagers, including 11-year-old and 12-year-old boys. The remaining community members were beaten and shocked by anti-riot police using electric batons as they attempted to prevent the arrests. Following the initial clash, the anti-riot police grabbed and arrested five more female villagers one by one and used more violence against the protesters to clear the area. By the end of the incident, at least three women had fallen unconscious due to electric shocks. One elderly woman, NgetChhon was bleeding from a head injury, another woman, TepVanny had a broken finger, and several more were left bruised. Over the last two months, villagers from BoeungKaklake have staged a series of peaceful protests demanding the authorities listen to their problems and discuss the ongoing land grabbing by the Shukakucompany, owned by CPP Senator Lao Mong Kim. To this day, however, authorities have failed to resolve the increasingly tense situation surrounding the land grab. Instead, they are using delay tactics, empty promises and have repeatedly used violence to disperse the villagers. HRTF calls for the leading authority figures that ordered and oversaw this morning’s violence against peaceful protesters to be suspended and investigated. Additionally, HRTF strongly urges the government and the Phnom Penh authorities to cease its intimidation campaign and begin an honest dialogue with the BoeungKak lake residents in order to resolve the ongoing land conflict. Beating the villagers and ignoring their voices won’t make the problems go away.

Media Contact:
Mr. SiaPhearum, Secretariat Director, HRTF: 012 852 325
Mr. Am Sam Ath, LICADHO Monitoring Supervisor, 012 327 770

to view the official press release from HRTF, click here.

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