About 30 Borei Keila residents, including six children, were being detained in a small cell in Prey Speu Correctional Centre in the capital’s Chaom Chao commune last night after police forced them onto a bus outside city hall on Preah Monivong Boulevard during another day of protests, a detained resident said.
For the second day in a row, displaced residents marched from Borei Keila – where their homes lie in ruins – to the city centre to demand municipal governor Kep Chutema resolve their land dispute and release the eight residents detained during violent clashes in Borei Keila on January 3.
Residents handed Hok Hour Lim, deputy director of the legal office of city hall, a petition at about 10:45am.
Defying an order to go home because they “had no homes”, about 30 of the 45 residents protested throughout the afternoon – chanting slogans through megaphones, waving signs and spilling onto the road – before about 60 police forced them onto a bus about 4:30pm, which drove them to the correctional facility.
Speaking by phone from Prey Speu late yesterday, detained villager Chum Ngan, 36, said all 30 people, including six children, were being detained in a 10 x 10 metre room.
“I heard that the officials said that we have to be detained here until all the old buildings in Borei Keila community are destroyed and the dispute is solved,” she said.
Kiet Chhe, deputy administrative director of municipal hall, defended the response from the authorities, saying residents had been sent to Prey Speu “for their own protection”.
“We took them there to give them protection and vocational training and to support their children to go to school,” he said. “We don’t want their children in their protest because they have to go to school.”
Khiev Malay, 38, said Daun Penh district police had pushed her to the ground and kicked her until she was unconscious during the protest; however, police denied this allegation.
Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said residents were being treated as “sub-human” and their detention at the correctional centre was likely to enflame the situation.
“This decision ... is illegal and shocking. If there needed to be any further proof of Prey Speu’s sole purpose, this is it,” she said.
“The goal is likely to get these people out of the way so that the controversy dies down. But this may in fact do the opposite.
“This action really raises the ante in what was already an outrageous case.”
In 2003, Phan Imex agreed to construct 10 buildings on two hectares of land at Borei Keila to house 1,776 families, in exchange for development rights to a remaining 2.6 hectares.
The firm has constructed only eight buildings.