Statement: Police Beat Boeung Kak Protesters, Leaving Five Injured

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), Equitable Cambodia (EC), the Cambodia Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

Joint Statement

Police Beat Boeung Kak Protesters, Leaving Five Injured

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Phnom Penh (March 13, 2012) – Authorities’ escalated their ongoing crackdown on the Boeung Kak Lake community today, as police launched a brutal attack on demonstrators who had gathered in a public park outside the Prime Minister’s house.

Three people were detained and five were seriously injured, including Lous Sokorn, the husband of imprisoned Boeung Kak rights activist Yorm Bopha. The demonstrators were calling for the release of Bopha, who has been designated a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International.

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), Equitable Cambodia (EC), the Cambodia Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) condemn the violent assault as yet another example of the authorities’ resort to counterproductive, inflammatory means in trying to quash peaceful dissent.

“Clearly the Boeung Kak community’s persistent calls for justice annoy the authorities,” said Mr. Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator of STT. “But beating and arresting people will not make the problem go away. If anything, these techniques have only increased the community’s solidarity.

“It’s time to make a settlement with the community, to make them whole again.”

The Boeung Kak demonstration began in the morning, with approximately 60 demonstrators gathering outside the Ministry of Justice to demand a prompt appeal hearing – and release – for Yorm Bopha. Bopha, a leader in the community’s fight against a massive land grab that has resulted in the eviction of some 3,500 households, was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2012 for her alleged role in the beating of a suspected thief. But it is widely believed that she was targeted by authorities due to her active role in fighting for the Boeung Kak community’s rights.

She was the 16th Boeung Kak activist arrested during a four-month period in 2012.

After Ministry of Justice officials refused to listen to the community’s pleas, demonstrators marched toward the Prime Minister’s villa near Independence Monument. They were gathered in a public park adjacent to the villa when about 60-80 military police, intervention police and district security moved in. They used riot shields and physical force to push the protesters back to the Hong Kong Center, about 500 meters away. At least three people were temporarily detained by authorities and many injured during the scuffle.

Bopha’s husband, Sous Sokorn, sustained perhaps the worst injuries, losing his front teeth and suffering several lacerations. Another man was nearly strangled by district security guards, who grabbed him by his helmet and caused the strap to tighten around his neck. The man was left gasping for air, and was later treated at Calmette Hospital. A portion of the violence was caught on video.

EC Representative Mr Eang Vuthy called the incident “totally unprovoked,” and “one of the most violent crackdowns on the Boeung Kak community we have seen.”

STT, EC, NGO-CEDAW and LICADHO call on the authorities to stop the violence against nonviolent citizen protests, and instead to directly address their concerns in a peaceful, productive, and transparent fashion.

For more information, please contact:

• Mr. Am Sam Ath, Technical Supervisor Tel: (+855) 012-327-770 [Khmer]
• Mr. Ee Sarom, Program Coordinator of STT Tel: (+855) 012-83-65-33 [Khmer, English]

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