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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Street vendor crackdown leads to violence in B'bang

Street vendor crackdown leads to violence in B'bang

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Rights groups claim police are employing heavy-handed tactics in their bid to clear vendors from selling in public places

Photo by: AFP

A  worker cuts sugarcane down in Kandal province. Vendors selling surgarcane juice say they are among the groups targetted by police.

ASUGARCANE vendor in Battambang has filed a complaint accusing district police with assaulting him and his two adolescent daughters last week, adding to a series of attacks on street sellers that have reportedly occurred amid an ongoing government crackdown.  

Kin Thina, 48, said as many as a dozen police officers attacked his daughters at 2pm on October 25 while they were selling sugarcane in Battambang's Sor Kheng park.

"My daughters ran from the police to get protection from me. I tried to defend them, but the police attacked me. They pulled me aggressively to their car and when I fell down, they kicked my head until I lost consciousness," he said.

"I want the court to punish the police for using violence against weak and poor people," he added. More than a dozen other vendors reported witnessing the attack.

Wider crackdown

According to the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, the attack on Kin Thina is the second assault on venders by police in Battambang during October.

While Yin Mengly, a local coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, also said the police brutality against Kin Thina was not an isolated incident.

"The police must face penalties for their actions. It is a violation of human rights. Cases of impunity must cease," he said.

Yin Mengly said he met with the provincial commissioner of police Tuesday to voice concerns about police abuses and to present statistics that showed such incidents are on the rise.

From January to October this year, the group documented eight cases of police brutality against vendors, compared with five last year.

But Thuch Ra, district chief of police in Battambang, said  Kin Thina's claims were false  and damaged the reputation of his officers. "I welcome the complaint from the defendant. I have enough proof to confirm to the court my police officers' innocence," he said. "I received a request in July from the provincial commissioner to clean up sellers around Sor Kheng park," he added.

"It is my responsibility to make sure we have a good environment in this area, and these sellers detract from that."

He added that the remaining sellers ignored police orders, so it was necessary to crack down, but denied using violence.

Kong Sokhorn, the Battambang provincial police chief, told the Post last week he had heard of several "little clashes" between vendors and police but denied any pattern of police violence.

In Phnom Penh, hundreds of street vendors protested against new beautification laws Thursday, saying that police forcing  them to pack up their stalls had damaged their goods. 

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