In yet another case of district security guards assuming the role of police officers, three evictees of the capital’s Boeung Kak lake area were detained in the capital yesterday morning and taken to a police station.
Daun Penh district security guards seized Em Srey Touch, 41, Sia Nareth, 56, and Sath Pha, 40, as they gathered with a group of about 10 former Boeung Kak villagers demanding more compensation outside Phnom Penh’s City Hall.
“The guards arrested me while I was getting off a tuk-tuk in order to try to meet with [Phnom Penh governor] Pa Socheatvong,” Srey Touch said.
The three were taken to Phnom Penh municipal police headquarters, questioned and released later without charge.
After the three were detained, about 50 protesters gathered outside the police station demanding their release, which came after each of them agreed to ink all 10 fingers and thumbs on a document containing details of their interviews.
The increase in security guards working for the Phnom Penh municipality or the districts over which it presides has been noticeable this year as men in non-descript clothing, often wearing motorcycle helmets, have forcibly detained or clashed with protesters.
In late January, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said many of those guards had received no government security training and were detaining people as civilian “public order” officers.
Dimanche said yesterday that the three protesters had been targeted as a way of preventing traffic delays along Monivong Boulevard, where City Hall is situated.
“The arrest is just advice to them since they tried to block the road,” he said. “This can lead to traffic congestion and social disorder.”
The protesters are part of a group of villagers who accepted compensation some years ago to leave their homes at Boeung Kak after the ruling Cambodian People’s Party awarded the area to a company owned by its senator Lao Meng Khin.
Those detained yesterday said their families had accepted $8,500 in compensation after Meng Khin’s company, Shukaku, had flooded their homes with sand and put pressure on them to vacate.
That compensation, however, has not been enough for them to establish new homes of an equivalent standard and many have since fallen into debt, they say.