Water Cannon Crackdown on Cambodian Land Activists

Cambodian police used water cannons Wednesday to disperse around 200 women demanding a quick resolution to long-running land disputes, knocking at least three of the protesters, including a 72-year-old, unconscious. The move came two days after authorities used stun batons to disperse a protest over wages at a local factory, resulting in two pregnant women suffering miscarriages among the 23 hurt in the violence. Wednesday’s incident occurred after the women from the Boeung Kak, Borei Keila and Thmar Koul communities in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh gathered in front of City Hall to demand that new municipal governor Pa Socheatvong honor his pledge to resolve their land rows by the end of the month, according to protest leader Tep Vanny. Residents of all three communities have been evicted to make way for luxury development projects in the capital. … Pa Socheatvong met on May 7 with representatives from the communities and promised them a swift solution to the disputes, marking a departure from the policies of his predecessor Kep Chuketma, who had refused to hold talks. But Tep Vanny said little had come from the governor’s pledge to begin reviewing the cases of the affected villagers. … City Hall spokesman Long Dyman said that the governor had established a special working group to study the three land disputes, but added that he “needed more time” to resolve them. The spokesman said that the way the villagers had tried to bring attention to the problem was illegal.