CAMBODIAN POLICE ARREST EIGHT SQUATTERS


2002.06.06
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SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia�Cambodian police have arrested eight squatters in the coastal town of Sihanoukville for defying a court order evicting them from land they have lived on for years, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. Authorities say the land now belongs to alleged drug kingpin Teng Bunma, a wealthy ally of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. In addition to the eight people in custody, a woman in her 60s remains hospitalized for injuries she sustained during her arrest, and 15 warrants are outstanding. The investigating judge, Tak Kimsea of Sihanoukville Municipal Court, told RFA's Khmer service the warrants charge all 24 squatters as members of "an anarchy group" with "intention... to damage the property of Teng Bunma." "There are still more arrests to be made if they continue to oppose the court�s decision." Tak Kimsea said, "but if they confess the court will consider making a plea bargain." The judge described Teng Bunma as legal owner of the land in question, 20,000 square meters of prime real estate for building hotels and casinos. He identified the eight people arrested as Hang Leng, Suy Kimsea, Hang Sambath, Hang Sotea, Man Sinath, Hang Chinda, Sok Chida, and Ghet Uch. All the warrants were issued for representatives of 24 families who remain on land they first occupied during the chaos of the 1980s but for which they hold no legal title. These families�the last of some 90 families to continue squatting on this tract of land�face criminal charges of destroying private property and assaulting construction workers. Sihanoukville, a coastal town 180 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh, has been home to all 24 families since 1979, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia to oust the Marxist Khmer Rouge. One woman, who said she was four months pregnant and declined to be named, recalled watching as police beat 62-year-old Suy Sea with an AK-47 assault rifle until she fainted. "I did not kill anyone," Suy Sea told RFA from her bed in the provincial hospital. "I just wanted to live on my land [and] they treated me like this." Suy Sea, chained and handcuffed, said police would take her to jail after she finished medical treatment. The judge declined a petition from Cambodian MP Sam Sundwoun to stop the arrests. Teng Bunma was once the wealthiest businessman in Cambodia and is barred from entering the United States because U.S. authorities regard him as a major drug-trafficker. He owns the Phnom Penh Intercontinental Hotel and the Rasmei Kampuchea, a pro-government newspaper. An RFA reporter in Sihanoukville noted that homes in the slum area where the 24 families lived were shuttered and locked, and the atmosphere was quiet. Numerous poor families continue to live as squatters throughout Cambodia, without legal title to the land they occupy. Few such titles survived the civil wars that ravaged Cambodia from the 1970s through the 1990s. Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news, information, and cultural programming to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia�giving them a voice as well as a means of connecting with the world and with one another. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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