A violent crackdown by the Daun Penh district police on a protest by about 200 people today in Phnom Penh concerning the controversial Boeung Kak lake development project led to the arrest of three activists, while 10 others suffered injuries from beatings.
The protesters descended upon Phnom Penh Municipal Hall to ask Governor Kep Chuktema to reconsider their alternative plan for the lake, which would set aside 15 hectares for families who would otherwise be displaced.
Kep Chuktema recently dismissed the proposal and did not show up to discuss the issue.
Ouch Leng, land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said no officials arrived to meet the protesters, who then attempted to block traffic along Monivong Boulevard in front of City Hall.
About 100 district police dispersed the villagers and arrested Suong Sakmai, 52, Ros Sreyneang, 45, and Ouch Phana, 42, following a 15-minute fight.
They were released from the Daun Penh district police station after signing contracts agreeing to stop causing public disorder.
“In the crackdown, many villagers were beaten and wounded with electric batons, and some were dragged to police cars and sent to Daun Penh district hall,” Ouch Leng said.
Tep Vanny, a 28-year-old from Village 22 near the lake, said several district police grabbed her by the hand and neck and dragged her to a police car.
“Those [district police] pressed my neck and hit me against the car like an animal,” Tep Vanny said.
She said she shook loose, however, with the help of other protesters.
Another lakeside resident, Kong Chantha, had been beaten unconscious, Tep Vanny said.
“Refusing to solve the problem and cracking down makes the villagers lose trust in the government more and more,” Ouch Leng said. “They also suspect that the present government is the company government, not the government that serves the citizens’ interests.”
Kim Heang, communications officer for the Housing Rights Task Force, said police briefly confiscated her camera, returning it only after deleting her photographs.
“We do not know how much those authorities know about the law, but their action for me is a violation of rights and law,” she said.
In January, city police temporarily confiscated the camera of Post photographer Sovan Philong during an eviction at Boeung Kak lake and deleted his photographs.
Sok Sambath, deputy governor of Daun Penh district, declined to comment at the scene.