Statement

Detained Borei Keila Residents Must Be Released from Prey Speu Center

Joint Organizations

January 12, 2012 - We, the ten undersigned civil society organizations, call for the immediate release of Borei Keila residents detained yesterday and since unlawfully detained at the Prey Speu Social Affairs Center. We also call for the permanent closure of the Prey Speu center, which has been proven time and again to be nothing more than an extra-judicial detention facility.

The detained residents - 24 women and six children - are among several hundred who were forcefully displaced on Jan. 3, 2012, when Phan Imex, a construction company owned by the well-connected Suy Sophan, destroyed their homes in Phnom Penh's Borei Keila settlement. The brutal eviction was overseen by over 100 armed state forces, and resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of at least eight residents. Approximately one dozen people were injured, some seriously.

Phan Imex had secured the right to develop the Borei Keila site in exchange for building 10 apartment buildings for displaced families. The company only constructed eight buildings, however, and unilaterally reneged on the agreement in April 2010, reportedly because construction costs were too high. Phan Imex was allowed to continue developing the land for commercial purposes, however, despite the contractual breach.

Yesterday's arrests of women and children took place while they were protesting their eviction and demanding the release of their fellow residents in front of the Phnom Penh Municipality building. The arrests were executed by both police and Daun Penh district security guards. The security guards have no legal power to arrest anyone.

"In fact, it is not even accurate to call these 'arrests,' " said Yeng Virak, CLEC Executive Director. "Arrest implies a lawful warrant, legal due process and criminal charges. The authorities have provided none of these here. Someone simply decided that they wanted to get rid of these people. That's what Prey Speu is - a place of extrajudicial detention. That's what it has always been."

"The authorities already sent a clear message that they have no regard whatsoever for the residents' property and contract rights," said Sia Phearum, HRTF Director. "Now it's clear they have no regard for their civil rights either. They protested too loudly, and they're paying with their freedom. This action really raises the ante in what was already an outrageous case. It's gone a step beyond shocking."

Organizations, such as LICADHO and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have long documented widespread abuses, including illegal confinement, rapes, beatings, deaths and torture, at Prey Speu and other social affairs centers. Conditions are in many cases worse than in Cambodia's prisons, and the authorities provide no legal due process to detainees.

"The illegal detention of victims of forced evictions within the walls of Prey Speu marks yet another deplorable milestone for this infamous center. For the authorities to illegally detain anyone, especially children, into a center with such a clearly established track record of abuses is deeply troubling," said LICADHO Director Naly Pilorge. "Centers such as Prey Speu serve no legitimate purpose in a free democratic society. Its closure is long overdue. This latest incident should serve as a wake-up call for all partners to the Social Affairs Ministry to push for a permanent shut down of this center."

We call for the immediate release of all Borei Keila residents from Prey Speu, as well as the complete and permanent closure of the center at the earliest date possible. We also call for Phan Imex to honor its agreement to build 10 apartment buildings for Borei Keila residents, and for the government to ensure that construction takes place and that forcefully evicted families are given on-site apartments.

This media statement has been endorsed by the following civil society organizations:
1. Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
2. Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
3. Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA)
4. Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC)
5. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
6. Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
7. Cambodian Independent Civil-Servants Association (CICA)
8. People's Action for Change (PAC)
9. Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
10. Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

PDF format: Download full statement in English - Download full statement in Khmer

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