Private developer 7NG wins in court for charges against community representatatives of inciting attacks on its workers and property
PHNOM Penh's Municipal Court Monday sentenced three community leaders of the recently evicted Dey Krahorm shanty town to 18 months in prison but commuted it to five years' probation for inciting destruction of property and bodily harm to workers of the private developer, 7NG, that now possesses the 3.6-hectare lot.
The accused, Chan Vichet, Ly Yuleng and Bun Thoeun, were also fined 800,000 riel (US$195) and 1.2 million riel ($293) to be paid as compensation to 7NG and the two injured workers, respectively.
Ham Sunrith, one of the three lawyers provided to the representatives by local rights group Licadho, called the ruling "unjust" and said the testimony of the company's workers was full of holes.
He said Chan Vichet had in fact urged peace and calm among the residents, who became irate after 7NG moved an excavator into their community late at night in what they saw as an intentionally provocative act.
Ly Yuleng said she was eating at the time of the altercation between residents and 7NG workers, who said residents threw stones at them and tried to destroy their equipment. Khiev Bunthoeun said she arrived on the scene after tensions escalated.
For Chan Vichet, justice had been turned upside down. "They demolished our homes and evicted us - that was the crime," he said.
demolished our homes and evicted us – that was the crime.
Presiding Judge Chey Sovann told the Post after the hearing that the charged had 30 days to appeal the ruling. The defence lawyers said the three charged had yet to decide whether they would file an appeal.
Protests weaken in resolve
As the court ruled against the representatives of the now bulldozed Tonle Bassac community, some 50 of the residents who were forcibly removed from Dey Krahorm in a blitz eviction late last month protested in front of City Hall to demand cash compensation be restituted.
Following the eviction, 7NG limited its compensation offer to homes for those families it considered eligible, removing a cash offer of $20,000 from the table.
Evicted residents have said the relocation homes in Damnak Troyoeng, 16 kilometres outside the city, are too far from the jobs and social services they had access to in the city.
Protests by the evictees have become increasingly weak in numbers as forcibly removed families say their resolve has been weakened by the city and developer's unwillingness to negotiate.
"It's been 23 days since we've been evicted and moved to Damnak Trayoeng," said Horn Sar, who has been living with his family in a makeshift shelter in a field at the relocation site. "We go to talk with 7NG and they send us to City Hall, and when I go to City Hall, they tell us to speak with the company. It's driving us crazy."
He said the group would protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's house today.