District authorities warned Borei Keila residents yesterday during a meeting to stop protesting lest they be arrested.
On Wednesday, representatives from seven families gathered in front of the house of Suy Sophan, the owner of Phanimex, to demand what they deem just compensation for vacating their homes to make way for the company’s development project. They submitted demands for compensation 10 days ago – ranging from $20,000 to $500,000 – but have not heard back, villager Dang Kongkea said.
During the protest, they were asked to meet with district authorities the next day, she said, and six did so with an assistant to district Governor Lim Sophea.
“They said ‘don’t go to the company, because this is not legal’ . . . They said police can arrest us, can accuse us of making insecurity in the neighbourhood,” she said. “They were begging us to be patient and calm down a bit.”
Read more: Borei Keila eviction, 6 years on
Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said yesterday the right to peaceful assembly could not be restricted wantonly. “[It] is essential for public expression and indispensable in a democratic society and as such, must be fiercely protected,” she said.
Her colleague Vann Sophat, who works with the community, said that protest was the residents’ “last choice” after being offered varying amounts of compensation they deem unfair.
“[The warning not to protest] may victimise claimants who just want an adequate compensation for buying homes to stay nearby,” he said.
Kongkea said that the group planned to protest again in mid-February if their problems were not solved.
Additional reporting by Kuoch Masy