Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Court Concludes Questioning of Boeung Tamok Residents Who Clashed With District Officials

Three Boeng Tamok community residents walk out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court after questioning on February 15,2024. (Supplied)
Three Boeng Tamok community residents walk out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court after questioning on February 15,2024. (Supplied)

Phnom Penh Municipal Court completed its interrogation Thursday of six Boeung Tamok residents who clashed with district authorities in December. The questioning ended a day earlier than expected, with the defendants denying the allegations and demanding that the court drop the charges.

Prek Pnov district official Sok Ban sued the residents for alleged intentional violence, property damage and crimes against public officials during a conflict on December 18. Samrong Tbong community members clashed with Prek Pnov district authorities when the officials tried to demolish a vegetable stall that was under construction.

Am Phoeun, a neighbor of the vegetable stall’s owner Kong Toeur, was questioned for 20 minutes on Thursday afternoon, telling CamboJA News the court asked if she was involved in the incident and if she resorted to violence against authorities. She denied  the allegations.

“They asked me if I had gone to attack the authorities,” she said. “I told them that our people never quarrel with the authorities, but the authorities came to us to destroy Kong Toeur’s stall, which was being built on her land, not on the land of the authorities or a company.”

She said the people of her community are the real victims in this conflict, and demanded that the court find a solution to the long-standing land dispute and ensure accountability from officials. 

Yorn Sambath, Toeur’s 19-year-old daughter, was questioned for an hour on Thursday morning, and she denied that she was violent toward authorities. 

Toeur’s other daughter Kim Yoeun, 30, was also questioned and denied being violent toward officials, saying that during the December incident she only assisted her mother with standing and walking due to her mother’s poor health.

Sous Vityearady, spokesperson for the court’s judges, declined to comment and directed further questions to the court’s deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal. In a Telegram message Friday, Sophal wrote that he did not have any additional information on the case. 

The government has parceled off more than half of Boeung Tamok in the last five years to business elites and government agencies that are filling in the lake for real estate developments. Residents or areas along the lake have been forcibly evicted and continue to face threats of eviction, according to the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT). Last month thirty-eight civil society organizations along with local communities called for authorities to immediately stop harassing Samrong Tbong community members and to issue land titles to the residents.

STT executive director Soeung Saran stated that the organization’s position is to ask the court to drop all charges against the Samrong Tbong community members. This incident is a result of a broader disagreement over who has rights to the land, he said.

“The court should consider the type of land of the disputed community first. If it is private land, this [lawsuit] should be dropped and the community members should own the land,” he said.