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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Protesters beaten at City Hall

A monk walks in front of Phnom Penh’s City Hall, where military police stand guard during a demonstration held by former Boeung Kak lake community members
A monk walks in front of Phnom Penh’s City Hall, where military police stand guard during a demonstration held by former Boeung Kak lake community members yesterday. Sreng Meng Srun

Protesters beaten at City Hall

Security personnel beat up a monk and two civilians outside City in Hall in Phnom Penh yesterday during a second day of protests involving families evicted from the capital’s Boeung Kak lake area in 2008.

Two other people were also injured during clashes outside the municipal headquarters in incidents throughout the day.

In an effort to avoid a repeat of scenes of the day before, when the new group of Boeung Kak protesters blocked the busy Monivong Boulevard, security guards hired by the Daun Penh district and military police began trying to disperse the group – which had also grown to include more well-known Boeung Kak activists – in the morning.

A Post reporter witnessed security personnel push a group of women, then pick them up and forcibly carry them away when they fought back. This prompted a torrent of abuse from a monk, who officers then surrounded, punching and striking him with batons.

Security personnel then beat up a man who tried to come to the monk’s aid.

“I saw them hit the monk, so I went in and tried to stop them,” said Dem Chhorn, 40. “Suddenly they were beating me up. It seemed like there were five or six of them hitting me on the head, neck and body until I was unconscious.”

Another protester, Suong Vesna, said he was struck in the jaw and leg when he tried to film the violence.

“I think they wanted to take my phone, because they are afraid of what can be uploaded to Facebook,” he said. The violence did not deter the protesters, however, whose numbers swelled in size after lunch.

Monks and civilians blocked Monivong Boulevard at about 1:40pm, and a number of people struck police barriers and broke the glass of an information board at the front of the building.

Some protesters tried to rush inside, an attempt that was thwarted by other guards. The crowd began to disperse at about 2pm.

The new group of Boeung Kak protesters were evicted from their homes in 2008 and forced to accept compensation and relocation they now say is insufficient. City spokesman Long Dimanche did not comment on the crackdown, but said officials at City Hall felt intimidated by the protesters.

“The protest which blocks City Hall and its officials is wrong,” he said. “It is anarchy … and these people must be punished.”

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