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Borei Keila beatings take toll

A young man is helped from the scene of a clash between authorities and civilians for treatment after being hit by security forces
A young man is helped from the scene of a clash between authorities and civilians for treatment after being hit by security forces at Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila on Friday. Daniel Quinlan

Borei Keila beatings take toll

Two days after authorities violently evicted Borei Keila community activists from an unfinished building they had occupied in protest, those targeted in the crackdown were still reeling yesterday, including one community member who now fears for the health of her unborn child.

Borei Keila resident Has Chenda, 35, was one of seven people who suffered serious injuries as Prampi Makara district security forces swept in to beat and disperse those who had moved into developer Phan Imex’s unfinished Building 9, which had been promised to them in an agreement between evictees and the developer in 2003.

Chenda – who is about eight months' pregnant – said from her clinic yesterday that she hadn’t felt the foetus move since Friday morning, and that her doctors blame the beating she received at the hands of district security.

“The medical team told me that the baby’s heart works normally, but its health is weak. That is why it cannot move like a normal child, and it was caused by the mother being beaten hard,” she said, adding that she had fallen to the ground after being knocked out.

Also among those injured was 17-year-old Morm Vanna, also known as Chhinh, who was beaten by four or five baton-wielding security guards, despite the fact that he was simply a coconut vendor watching the crackdown from the sidelines.

“They accused me of throwing rocks at them, but I did not act as I was accused,” he said, adding many people could vouch that he had done nothing wrong.

Municipal spokesman Long Dimanche maintained yesterday that such clashes were impossible to avoid, and that with protesters refusing to leave, “managing not to cause violence is very difficult”.

Such crackdowns are necessary, Dimanche continued, as the only alternative is filing a complaint against offending groups in the courts, which would take much more time.

However, Am Sam Ath, senior investigator with rights group Licadho, condemned the practice for that same extrajudicial nature.

“The authorities continue to use security forces, which do not recognise legal measures, but [only] suppress things with violence,” he said. “This is a serious human rights abuse.”

Borei Keila community representative Chhay Kimhorn said yesterday that while the government was quick to use crackdowns, they had done little to provide villagers with the apartments they themselves had promised.

“The authorities have accused us of being poor people who violate the law, but authorities refused to take legal action for us in the spirit of the agreement,” she said. “Where is the social justice?”

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