Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights worker beaten at rally



Rights worker beaten at rally

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sarim Sarun, a freelance reporter, walks through a crowd with blood on his face yesterday after being hit by the authorities at a World Habitat Day march. Heng Chivoan

Rights worker beaten at rally

A march by 300 villagers from 99 communities to mark World Habitat Day was marred by violence yesterday after Daun Penh district security guards beat up five people en route to the Ministry of Land Management, including an observer from human rights group Licadho.

The march, which consisted of villagers affected by land disputes and supporting NGOs, started at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Theatre and was headed towards Freedom Park, when the group decided to change course to the Ministry of Land Management to deliver petitions.

The brawl started when the Daun Penh guards – notorious for numerous bloody crackdowns in the wake of the 2013 elections – snatched a drum from a villager, with a tussle ensuing between both sides. Security guards then started beating up Boeung Kak community representative Chan Puthisak, when Licadho’s monitoring manager Am Sam Ath attempted to defuse the situation. “I saw the man being beaten and thought it could get serious, so I asked them to stop beating him,” Sam Ath said. “I just said that and then security guards started to beat me.”

Sam Ath received injuries to his mouth and face, and has lodged a complaint with the Chey Chumneah commune police station in Daun Penh district. “I want the police to take legal action on this case,” he added.

Additionally, freelance reporter Sarim Sarun was left bleeding from his head after being hit with a walkie-talkie, and former Boeung Kak resident Sat Pha received injuries to her shoulder and face. “They just beat us without saying anything,” Pha said. “The government never cares about our concerns – we just want justice.”

According to a City Hall notice dated October 8, the group had permission to assemble at Freedom Park, with only 10 land representatives allowed to deliver petitions to the Land Management Ministry.

City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said the group had violated their agreement by conducting the march and that officers were only trying to stop them from changing their route.

“The security guards did not beat them. We do not know who started the trouble first,” he said. In the afternoon, ministry official Heu Chanda met with the protesters at Freedom Park to accept their petitions, saying that the ministry was working to find a solution to their disputes but that it would take time.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Licadho staffer Am Sam Ath tries to defend himself from daun penh authorities yesterday morning in phnom penh during a World Habitat Day march. Heng Chivoan

A statement signed by 60 groups yesterday condemned the attack on the peaceful march, calling it another example of the government’s “restrictive environment for the peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms”.

Sia Phearum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the government’s lack of accountability and transparency had let land disputes spread like a “cancer” across the nation. And their inability to address these issues had forced villagers to take to the streets, he added.

Soeung Saran, advocacy manager at Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, meanwhile, said little progress had been made to address disputants’ grievances. “They [the ministry] have solved some problems in the provinces, but in Phnom Penh there is not much noticeable difference,” he said.

Additional Reporting by Ananth Baliga

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there