Frustrated Boeung Kak and Borei Keila community members flooded past a Daun Penh road barrier yesterday after attempting to lodge complaints with district authorities in connection with Sunday’s violence at Wat Phnom.
On Sunday night, a brutal raid on a peaceful vigil of about 20 protesters from the two embattled communities left at least 10 people injured, according to activists’ count, and the hospitalisation of two elderly women. At the scene, authorities confiscated two tuk-tuks, multiple watches and mobile phones, and two motorbikes owned by a local reporter and a civilian.
“They injured people who are over 60 and 70 years old and are now weaker,” activist Song Srey Leap, 27, said. “It’s my right to protest. Democracy in Cambodia is cruel and nepotistic, [only] for the powerful and rich.”
Nearly 60 residents of Boueng Kak and Borei Keila pulled back razor-wire road blocks yesterday morning after district security officers ignored complaints and sealed off entrances on both sides of the building.
After protesters became irate, 50 national police officials arrived on the scene, attempting to negotiate with district authorities and protesters. Eventually, three representatives were allowed into the building.
Kim Vutha, Daun Penh district security chief, told the Post he acquired the two motorbikes at Wat Phnom and stored them at home.
“We did not steal them. After the event, [the protesters] left those motorbikes [so] we just took them and kept them,” he said, adding he knew nothing about Sunday’s violence.
However, others said it was tantamount to robbery, because authorities extinguished lights at Wat Phnom before beating non-violent civilians and stealing property owned by participants.
“I dragged a motorbike 10 metres away and, suddenly, police, military police and some young adult boys started beating me up with sticks,” Mao Sokha, 60, said, adding that his thigh was nearly broken in the scuffle.
Tep Vanny, a prominent Boeung Kak representative, told the Post a complaint would be filed with local courts.
In a joint statement issued by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and local groups including Licadho and CCHR, the NGOs called for an investigation into the violence and urged a halt to the use of excessive force.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE