Bridget Di Certo and Phak Seangly
The Phnom Penh Post
Twenty convicts in Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison were employed by military and local authorities to tear apart a nearby village on land slated for a second prison compound, villagers and rights groups alleged yesterday.
However, prison authorities denied that any incarcerated people were involved in the actual eviction of villagers, despite multiple rights groups attesting to the prisoners’ participation.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights said yesterday that an armed force of military police, along with 20 prisoners, descended on Village 16 in Sihanoukville town late last month and tore apart the homes and crops of about 16 families living in the area.
“The use of prisoners to carry out a forced eviction in Sihanoukville highlights the irresponsible and abusive manner in which the state is administering prison labour and carrying out forced eviction, breaching the legal and human rights of both prisoners and land occupants,” CCHR said in a case study of the eviction published over the weekend.
Chan Chamroeun, provincial investigator for Adhoc, said that some prisoners were used in the dismantlement, but did not know exactly how many.
“The prisoners should not have been used in the dismantlement. They are prisoners who normally are not well educated. If they caused another problem [like violence], who would be responsible for it?” he said, adding that only legal forces should be used.
Nou Sammoeurn, whose daughter’s home was dismantled, said the scene of the eviction and dismantlement of private property was “violent”.
“I felt shocked seeing the dismantling and police armed with guns,” she said yesterday.
The current provincial prison occupies about one hectare of land and has capacity for 150 prisoners. According to Licadho, as of May 2011, there were 435 prisoners detained there.