THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Vol. 8, No. 222
October 29th – November 11th 1999
A group of Chinese youths who have posted themselves as lookouts on the roof of the otherwise nondescript villa in Kien Svay village in Kandal Province begin loudly chanting the Chinese word for "protest" at the sight of any approaching visitors.
A horde of detained Chinese shout their complaints from the rooftop of their villa-prison
The cry is quickly taken up by other strident voices, their owners invisible behind the villa's high walls, competing with the traffic noise for dominance and making the dozen or so immigration police and gendarmarie on duty outside the villa visibly uneasy.
On July 17, the 95 Chinese nationals being detained in this villa 20 kilometers from Phnom Penh on Route 1 were arrested as part of an ongoing- and what the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh has alleged is a discriminatory - crackdown on illegal Chinese immigration through Cambodia.
As part of a new twist on the treatment of Chinese illegal immigrants, immigration police are detaining them in the "safe houses" in which they are found, while saddling the owners of the premises with the responsibility of providing food for the detainees.
The policy is a result of what immigration police officials describe as detention center facilities and budgets hopelessly overburdened by the arrest of almost 400 illegal Chinese immigrants in just the past month.
It's a policy that the 95 Chinese detainees in Kien Svay, who claim to hail from a mixture of Fukien, Yunnan and Guangdong provinces, say is denying them basic provisions of clean water, food and clothing.
"We have no clothes!" screamed one young man wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. "The police stole everything from us, and have left us to starve."
Detainees who spoke to the Post claimed that adequate food and basic health and hygiene conditions were not being supplied to them by the authorities.
"We're hungry; we have not had anything to eat today," another young male detainee called from the roof.
"There is no running water in this building and we have to shit outside ... Please help us!"
The guards denied that sanitary conditions were a problem in the villa, and assured the Post and representatives of the human rights group
Licadho that a district Khmer-Chinese Association had agreed to shoulder the responsibility of supplying the detainees' food.