Cambodia: mother of four killed trying to protect Children's rights as security forces forcibly evict villagers

Two shot dead, 12 arrested and 317 families evicted in brutal crackdown

Cambodian security forces killed two – including a 29-year-old mother of four – arrested 12 and evicted 317 families last week as they cleared a commune in the remote northern province of Preah Vihear, Amnesty International learnt today.

Toeun Chheng was shot in the chest at point blank range as she attempted to protect her Children's rights during the forced eviction. The other casualty, 31-year-old Oeun Eng, was shot while trying to resist the security forces.

The 317 impoverished families had recently settled on unused land near the village of Sra Em. The community’s leaders had negotiated a written agreement with the local authorities allowing them to stay put until a suitable alternative location had been found.

However, on 15 November, the authorities sent in 200 armed police, military police and soldiers, to forcibly evict the community, destroying homes and belongings in the process.

Eyewitnesses told local human rights workers that the security forces had not issued any warnings before opening fire. Accounts suggest that at least six other evictees were injured, five by gun shots, and one who was beaten. Two are seriously injured and are being treated at the provincial hospital.

Of the 317 families evicted, around 40 families who lost most of their belongings have been stranded on a roadside near their village, with no shelter, food or water. Twelve people were arrested during the eviction and are being detained in the capital, Phnom Penh, some 400 kilometres away from the village. It is not known what charges they face.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director, Tim Hancock, said:

“The behaviour of the Cambodian authorities is nothing short of sickening.

“Sadly this is not a one off, only two weeks before 132 families were forcibly evicted from a village on the eastern outskirts of the capital.

“Amnesty International is calling on its members worldwide to write to the country’s deputy prime minister to express their concerns about Cambodia’s outrageous policy of forced evictions.”

· International human rights law requires that evictions be carried out only as a last resort, and following adequate notice and consultation with those affected. In this case, the eviction reportedly took place in breach of a written agreement between local authorities and the community, which stated that the families could remain on the land on a temporary basis until a suitable resolution had been found.

· This agreement had been reached following a stand-off between the villagers and the authorities on 9 November, when police had moved in at night in an attempt to arrest two community leaders.

· On 11 November, the local district governor had offered two vaguely described alternative locations for resettlement, but community leaders declined to move until they had more information on these areas, including the precise geographic location of the land and assurances that the area has access to water, schooling for the Children's rights and other basic infrastructure.

· Four days later and without any prior notification, security forces showed an announcement from the provincial administration, stating the community had to leave. The implementation of the eviction notice by security forces followed immediately.

· On 2 November 2007, 300 members of the security forces were deployed around the village of Chong Chruoy on the eastern outskirts of Phnom Penh. Within hours they had forcibly evicted the 132 families who had been living there.

· The villagers were forcibly relocated to a resettlement site at Trapeang Anchanh village in Dangkor district where they currently lack adequate shelter, food, and clean water.

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