KANG-YI! Kang-yi! - A group of Chinese youths who have posted themselves as
lookouts on the roof of the otherwise nondescript villa in Kien Svay village in
Kandal Province begin loudly chanting the Chinese word for "protest" at the
sight of any approaching visitors.
A horde of detained Chinese shout their complaints from the rooftop of their villa-prison
The cry is quickly taken up by other
strident voices, their owners invisible behind the villa's high walls, competing
with the traffic noise for dominance and making the dozen or so immigration
police and gendarmarie on duty outside the villa visibly uneasy.
17, the 95 Chinese nationals being detained in this villa 20 kilometers from
Phnom Penh on Route 1 were arrested as part of an ongoing- and what the Chinese
Embassy in Phnom Penh has alleged is a discriminatory - crackdown on illegal
Chinese immigration through Cambodia.
As part of a new twist on the
treatment of Chinese illegal immigrants, immigration police are detaining them
in the "safe houses" in which they are found, while saddling the owners of the
premises with the responsibility of providing food for the detainees.
policy is a result of what immigration police officials describe as detention
center facilities and budgets hopelessly overburdened by the arrest of almost
400 illegal Chinese immigrants in just the past month.
It's a policy that
the 95 Chinese detainees in Kien Svay, who claim to hail from a mixture of
Fukien, Yunnan and Guangdong provinces, say is denying them basic provisions of
clean water, food and clothing.
"We have no clothes!" screamed one young
man wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. "The police stole
everything from us, and have left us to starve."
Detainees who spoke to
the Post claimed that adequate food and basic health and hygiene conditions were
not being supplied to them by the authorities.
"We're hungry; we have not
had anything to eat today," another young male detainee called from the roof.
"There is no running water in this building and we have to shit outside ...
Please help us!"
Guards at the site admitted that there had been problems
in getting the villa's owner, Sa Rin, Stung Treng provincial police military
deputy commander, to provide the necessary food for the 97 detainees.
and his wife claimed to have rented the house to a Chhay Chanthou and to have
had no knowledge of the illegal Chinese immigrants.
The guards denied
that sanitary conditions were a problem in the villa, and assured the Post and
representatives of the human rights group Licadho that a district Khmer-Chinese
Association had agreed to shoulder the responsibility of supplying the
However, attempts by both the Post and Licadho on Oct
22 to independently confirm the detainees' allegations were
Guards manning the gate told the Post that permission of
the District Governor was needed to enter the tightly guarded villa, while the
District Governor in turn insisted that the Interior Ministry regulated access
to the detainees.
Prum Sokha, Secretary of State for the Ministry of
Interior, in turn told Licadho representatives that access to the villa was the
responsibility of the immigration police.
Immigration officials later
rebuffed attempts made by representatives of United Nations Center for Human
Rights to gain access to the villa, while UNHCHR efforts to enlist the
assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross for assistance were
In spite of the efforts of police sentries to
prevent outside contact with the villa's occupants, from an adjacent property
the Post was able to speak with several detainees who painted a grim picture of
hunger, filth and degenerating health conditions inside the villa.
ten people here have eye infections and several others have skin infections
because there's no running water in this building " a detainee in his early
twenties said angrily. "No-one from the Chinese Embassy has checked on us here
... We've been abandoned."
Attempts by the Post to contact Chinese
Embassy officials in Phnom Penh regarding the detainees plight were
Although the detainees conceded that a doctor had visited
the villa, they claimed that his assistance had been "useless". "I can't believe
that was a real doctor," one man said.
Other claims made by members of
the group were more questionable.
"We are tourists from China," a man
replied when asked why he had entered Cambodia, provoking a ripple of knowing
smiles and laughter from his companions. "We don't understand why we're being
held here ... We just want to go home."
When asked if any members of the
group wanted to go to a third country such as the United States, a young man who
raised his hand and voiced his interest was shouted down by his
Others in the group alleged that in addition to being robbed
by police, those who had protested their treatment had been beaten by their
"They've hit us with sticks," a detainee shouted. "They
beat us for no reason!"
When the Post revisited the villa on Oct 27, the
detainees said that conditions had improved slightly, but concerns regarding the
fate of their personal belongings and allegations of police brutality
Guards on duty outside the villa, however, say any violence
that has occurred has been wrought by the detainees themselves.
people are very unreasonable," an immigration policeman said of the detainees,
shaking his head wearily. "They've destroyed everything in the house ... That's
why the place is a mess."