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Prayers for retribution at lakeside

Residents of Boeung Kak’s village 22 yesterday morning prayed for retribution on the government officials they accuse of having corrupt ties to a company that used excavators and police to demolish their homes and businesses on Friday, during a brutal incident that was videotaped and uploaded onto YouTube.

Standing in the rubble where his home stood before Friday, Doung Kea, 43, told the Post that he was praying for spirits to punish corrupt officials who conspired to destroy his house and those of his neighbours. “It is the time of the Pchum Ben festival, so our prayers for action against corrupt officials will be effective,” he said.

Friday’s destruction began early in the afternoon when two excavators moved into the village, accompanied by about 100 district and riot police. Eight houses and shops were demolished as horrified onlookers cried, shouted or tossed stones at them.

Widow Chhun Lycheng, 32, whose shop house was destroyed, accused developer Shukaku Inc and the Daun Penh district officials of conspiring with each other to destroy her house before she could negotiate compensation to relocate.

“My house was torn down by the two excavators while I was doing business. I would not have survived if someone had not dragged me away,” she said.

Heng Mom, 54, whose house was the first to be torn down said that after she had refused compensation of US$80,000 she was told that her house would be buried in sand.  “I refused the offer and my house was demolished as they had threatened,” she said.

Sam Rainsy Party activist Soung Sophoan, a former resident of Village 20, was beaten unconscious by a group of police who whacked him with batons, then kicked him in the face, head and torso after he had fallen to the ground.

Yesterday, he said the gold chain he had worn was stolen during the attack, which was captured on a video that as of last night had been viewed nearly 10,000 times on YouTube.

Pich Chanthea, 44, a resident of village 23 of Doun Penh’s Sras Chok commune, said the government was promoting Cambodia as the Kingdom of Wonder in its latest tourism campaign, but some officials were driving people from their homes into makeshift shelters under tents. Friday’s incident was the latest in the dispute between residents of villages around Boeung Kak Lake and Shukaku Inc, which was given a 99-year lease to develop the area in 2007.

Earlier last month Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub-decree setting aside 12.44 hectares as a relocation site for 746 families who had refused to make way for the development. Residents of villages 6, 22 and 24, however, were denied land titles within the relocation site.

Shukaku is owned by ruling- party senator Lao Meng Khin. The Chinese firm Erdos Hong Jun Investment Company has a 51 percent stake in the project.

Municipal governor Kep Chutema and Shukaku executives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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