A new military police station planned for the heart of Phnom Penh’s dissonant Boeung Kak neighbourhood that authorities say will better protect the area has left its residents at war.
On Saturday morning, supporters of high-profile activist Tep Vanny, who want plans for the base to be put on hold until a solution is reached on a 12.44-hectare concession area, clashed with supporters of rival activist Heng Mom, who believe the base will offer increased protection.
“We still stand for protesting … if Phnom Penh municipal authorities don’t give a proper solution to our Boeung Kak villagers. But we will not protest blindly like Tep Vanny’s group,” Mom told the Post yesterday.
Activist Nget Khun, 74, said she sustained head injuries after being pelted with stones by activist and Mom supporter Tol Srey Pov.
Khun, who shared a prison cell with Mom in 2012 when the pair were among 13 convicted of occupying state land and obstructing public officials, blamed the authorities.
“I think that those things were set up by the authorities to break our solidarity,” Khun said, adding that she has filed an official complaint against Srey Pov.
Srey Pov admitted to throwing rocks because Khun “pushed me to the ground and threw pebbles in my face”.
But Daun Penh district Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth, who kept watch on the area alongside dozens of his notorious district security guards, said the authorities had nothing to do with the clashes.
“The authorities tried to stop them from using violence … but they kept pushing each other and throwing rocks at each other until some people were injured,” he said.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the military police station was just the first of a number of new bases planned for the area.
“That land belongs to Phnom Penh authorities; it does not belong to a company or community. In the future, the authorities are going to build more buildings for police forces, not only the Daun Penh district military police station,” he said.
A district official who asked not to be named said Khun and others will be invited to meet with authorities today to discuss the ongoing dispute.