Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A confronting force on streets

A confronting force on streets

Daun Penh district security guards exhibited excessive force before arresting a man near a Boeung Kak lake activist demonstration at City Hall in Phnom Penh
Daun Penh district security guards exhibited excessive force before arresting a man near a Boeung Kak lake activist demonstration at City Hall in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. HONG MENEA

A confronting force on streets

As protests against land grabbing have increased in Phnom Penh in the past five years, so too have violent crackdowns by the authorities.

Police have been criticised for their treatment of protesters – which has included beatings with electric batons and kicks to the stomach of pregnant women.

But in recent years, activists and NGOs say, private security guards employed by the Daun Penh district have increasingly been the ones inflicting violence on the predominantly female groups of activists.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that in the past three years it had become common for security guards to beat protesters in the presence of – and sometimes with the help of – police.

“In 2009 and 2010, it was the police that used violence,” he said. “When more Boeung Kak and Borei Keila activists protested, police stopped using as much violence.

“They stopped following orders to beat the women. So now the authorities use the Daun Penh district security guards to use violence.”

When the latest incident occurred on Wednesday – less than a week after the government was praised for its treatment of opposition protesters – a Post reporter observed police watching as security guards took batons to protesters.

Separately, in June, when NagaWorld employees went on strike outside the casino, unidentified security guards detained a number of workers and loaded them into a police van, again, in the presence of police.

Borei Keila resident Sar Sorn said she had noticed growing numbers of security guards at land-eviction protests since the lead-up to the election.

“I think the government knows it looks worse if police attack us, so they let security guards beat us when we protest. And the police watch. But they are security guards – they must protect us, not beat us.”

Officials declined to comment when asked why security guards were allowed to take a violent approach to protesters.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, referred all questions to City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche, who could not be reached.

Kirth Chantharith, national police spokesman and Phnom Penh police chief Choun Sovann also could not be reached.

MOST VIEWED

  • EU parliament’s 13-point vote to decide on possible sanctions

    The European Parliament is due to vote on Thursday on a 13-point resolution on Cambodia – which includes a call for the treason charges against bailed opposition leader Kem Sokha to be dropped – a threat that could see the EU enforce a range of sanctions against

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment