The Phnom Penh Municipality issued another poor explanation for its detention of 30 women and children at the Prey Speu Social Detention Center Friday. I’m here once again to break it down for you.
Claiming to have “investigated” the 22 families detained at the center, the City found…..
“14 families illegally bought the house on the State’s land (during the restricted period). In exchange to that illegally bought-houses the authority offer compensations with a new plot of land, but sadly they rejected the offer;
- 06 families illegally bought the house on the State’s land but not for living; instead, they rent it out; (Right, what with being poor and all. One would think if you owned a house, you’d have the right to do whatever you wanted to do it with it.)
- 01 family had been compensated with a house but later on the house was sold. This family is asking for a new one for their children. (Because keeping an entire extended and prolific Cambodian family together in one tiny apartment will work out great for everyone involved.)
- 01 family is an opportunist-squatter. This family stayed on the spot hoping for compensation. Initially, they agreed to the authority offer of 500USD and a plot of land but later on they rejected the offer. (Because that is a lousy offer. Having seen those plots of land, I agree with evictees who said “they aren’t fit for a dog.” Further, having talked to these evictees, the cash offers were more along the lines of $50—and those who did receive plots of land often had to pay cash to get them)
One pities the city authorities. Trying so hard to get by with their paltry incomes, scraping for gas to fill up their Lexuses and keep their wives in high-end footwear—and these horrible evictees are asking for something more than a piss-stained plot of land in the middle of nowhere in exchange for their long-term homes.
We would like you to thoroughly consider is it appropriate that some families illegally bought the house on the state’s land while others initially agreed to the arranged compensation policy but later on they rejected the offers?
Poor developers – it must have just slipped your mind to build those last two apartment complexes.
After all— it’s so easy to forget to complete major building projects. (Case in point: the Phnom Penh skyline).
Now, here’s the real winner of the statement….
“Transferring these 22 families to temporary stay in Prey Speu Center does not mean that they are under detention. The purpose is to give them a proper care and provide vocational trainings. But if you still accuse that the authority attempts to detain them, we would like to question if they were under detention why they can freely and comfortably make phone calls out or contact outside the center? During their stay in this center, the authority is trying to figure out their real needs and intentions. They are entitled to every rights as long as they respect the law. “
The Phnom Penh Municipality appears to believe that we—media, evictees, the public—are unaware of the fact that detained people are generally allowed to make phone-calls. Cell-phones have this remarkable ability to operate through walls. You should try it sometime.
Also, note “the authority is trying to figure out their real needs and intentions.”
The writer of this statement, with that single sentence, has suddenly rendered this supposedly “comforting” missive creepily Orwellian.
In a democratic state—which Cambodia swears up and down it is—the people dictate their own needs and intentions, not an amorphous body of authorities at a detention center.
In a democratic state, peaceful protesters are not forced into a bus, along with their children, and shoved into a “center” which various human rights groups have likened to a prison.
Further: Yeng Virak of the Community Legal Education Center has stated authorities have threatened some of the detainees at Prey Speu into agreeing to be relocated to the Phnom Bat relocation camps, in exchange for their release.
This is nothing less than coercion—and once again, this is not what a democratic state does to its own people.
“On the other hand, we suggest that your judgement should be based on an impartial press, not on the bias and misleading one which does not reflect the press ethics and might lead you to wrong conclusion. If possible, we would welcome you to Phnom Penh to see what is really happening rather than only listening to bias, groundless and meaningless information. Then, you will understand the hardship and challenges the authority is facing.”
The only possible answer to this is: I’m media. I’m in Phnom Penh. I’ve been to Borei Keila, I’ve been to Phnom Bat, I’ve been to the US Embassy. I’m drawing my conclusions from what I’ve seen and heard on a first person basis.
The conclusion I draw from these poorly written and argued municipality missives is this:
The Cambodian authorities are operating under the assumption that both media and evictees are stupid—stupid and lazy. I hope we can prove them wrong.