PHNOM PENH, April 21 (Reuters) – Cambodian police clashed on Thursday with protesters who have refused to make way for a Chinese-Cambodian housing project in the country’s capital.
Police armed with riot shields, wooden sticks and batons tried to disperse about 100 people demonstrating in front of city hall against plans by authorities to evict 1,500 families from areas around Boeng Kak Lake.
Tens of thousands of Cambodians are being ejected from farms or city homes to make way for development projects, many led by Chinese firms such as Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun Investment Corp
, which is building a luxury housing estate next to Boeng Kak Lake in a joint venture with a Cambodian tycoon.
The firm has pledged to spend $3 billion on Cambodian real estate, metal processing and power generation, one of dozens of Chinese companies pumping money into the impoverished country’s energy, agriculture, property, mining and transport sectors.
“Police hit me two times,” said Nget Kun, 71, whose head was bleeding. “We protest over our homes and there is no reason for police to beat us up.”
A total of 2,752 families have already been driven from homes around Boeng Kak. Remaining families have rejected the developer’s compensation of $8,500 per family or relocation to a small flat on the fringes of the city.
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said police acted within the law and excessive force was not used.
He said nine protesters had been detained for attacking police with umbrellas, bricks and for throwing urine. A Reuters witness said protesters threw only sugar cane juice and shoes.