In the past few years, the explosive events at Boeung Kak lake – including violent evictions and arrests – have gone largely unreported outside the Kingdom’s independent media outlets.
But during the past week, things have changed.
Outspoken community representative Tep Vanny has been under attack from her fellow Boeung Kak residents, who have accused her of corruption and even “Pol Pot-like behaviour” – and Cambodia’s televisions stations have taken a sudden interest.
A number of stations, seen as heavily aligned with the government, have been broadcasting frank criticism of Vanny, including lengthy excerpts of a press conference led by her former cellmates in Prey Sar prison, Heng Mom and Tol Srey Pov.
The Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, too, has been covering the schism – at least from the point of view of Vanny’s critics.
On Saturday, the government website ran a press release from residents including Srey Pov and Mom, along with no fewer than 24 photos of the group speaking to journalists and lodging petitions with foreign embassies.
In the statement, Vanny is accused of inciting violent protests, pocketing donations and ordering evictees to burn themselves for attention.
“Tep Vanny is a selfish woman who regards herself as an authoritarian protest leader and does not concern about the common interest with behaviour like Pol Pot,” the statement says.
Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Tith Sothea was not available for comment yesterday, while Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he wasn’t able to comment on PQRU matters.
After videos were posted on YouTube of disgruntled Boeung Kak residents accusing Vanny of corruption, the activist called a press conference on Thursday to deny allegations, during which she questioned the news judgment of local television producers.
“Thousands of villagers have been evicted . . . some have been arrested when marching for a solution. But state television and radio stations have not covered these events – nor have private stations,” she said.
Heng Mom said Vanny was “working on behalf of the opposition party and her own benefit, not ours”.
“Vanny always accuses us of selling out to the CPP, but we haven’t,” she said.