AT LEAST six people, including a pregnant woman, were injured this morning when security forces armed with batons and shields descended on the capital’s Borei Keila community, forcibly removing families who had occupied an unfinished building since Wednesday.
After blocking off the road into Borei Keila at about 7am, helmeted military police and district security guards stormed the site, where many of those violently evicted in 2012 live in tents among piles of garbage.
Authorities kicked a woman sleeping next to the building where evictees had taken up residence, aggravating a crowd of mostly woman.
The two groups clashed, with authorities striking residents with batons, before both groups threw rocks at each other.
Hasok Chinda, 35, a woman who is seven months’ pregnant, said she was beaten in the clash.
“I’m so angry, because I have a [land title], but I stay in the [tents]. Why? The way the municipality and City Hall talk about all the people at Borei Keila, it’s wrong.”
Choa Sophea, told the Post that she had been feeding her newborn baby when she was struck in the face and then beaten unconscious.
Rights group Licadho issued a statement saying six people had been injured.
Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, told the Post that her organisation had treated some of the injured and sent three beaten women to a clinic for further treatment.
Chinda – due to give birth in just a couple of months – was expected to fully recovery, Pilorge added.
Dozens of families had occupied the unfinished Building 9 without permission since Wednesday, claiming the authorities were marking out smaller parcels of land than what they had promised to them.
Representatives of the families, violently evicted from their homes more than two years ago, said yesterday they had expected the authorities to forcibly remove them.
Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong had earlier said that authorities could not be held responsible if “any problem occurred” at Borei Keila, because they were occupying the building without permission, according to villagers and City Hall.
After the clash, a fence was soon being constructed in front of Building 9, owned by developer Phan Imex, the company that failed to honour a contract signed in 2003 to house the villagers.
Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua was present at the crackdown and helped rush a man, who was bleeding profusely, to safety.
“I was trying to help this young guy . . . to get out of there,” she said. “He said he had just been standing by.”
Sochua condemned the violence, describing it as “the same old thing – forcing people to leave their homes and cracking down on them”.
“Is it necessary, legal and proportionate? We have people paid to injure, maim and kill,” she said, referring more widely to other state-inflicted violence this year. “It’s not the solution.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche defended the incident, saying security forces had been responding to a complaint lodged by Phan Imex that families were occupying one of its buildings.
In such circumstances, he said, violence was “inevitable”.
“When it comes to administrative actions likes these, managing not to have violence is difficult,” he said, adding that it came from both sides. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL