Thirteen Boeung Kak protesters released from jail Wednesday say they will continue their demonstrations until they obtain more land on a real estate development in the capital.
Representatives wasted no time in meeting after their release from prison following a decision by the Appeals Court Wednesday.
“The strike to get land is legal,” said Heng Mom, one of the representatives given reprieve from a two and a half year sentence after a more than a month in jail. “I have to join and support my people, and also I’m a member of the Boeung Kak community.”
The Boeung Kak development project, which required the removal of thousands of families and the filling in of a massive lake, has turned into a nettling problem for city and national authorities, with a well-organized and motivated group of protesters continuously demonstrating for housing rights against a development company linked to a ruling party official. The thirteen women were arrested in May when they tried to resurrect a house that had been demolished by authorities trying to make way for the development.
Demonstrations have often turned violent, leading to injuries and detention, but last month’s arrests and sentencing marked an escalation in the dispute. It also galvanized more demonstrators, who gathered outside the court and in other public venues in protest, even while the jailed women went on hunger strike.
As the 13 women gathered for a meeting Thursday, Tho Davy, 25, said that her time in jail had “not traumatized” her, but had instead strengthened her will to continue protesting. “If Prime Minister Hun Sen has a solution for Boeung Kak lake, I will stop,” she said. “If not, I will go on.”
The protesters say they want fair demarcation of more than 12 hectares granted to families on the 133-hectare development that was granted by Hun Sen earlier this year. That plan has met heavy criticism from families who say they were excluded through underhanded deals and corruption.
“Some villagers were cut from the more than 12 hectares,” said Tol Srey Pov, another freed protester. “So we will continue our strike.”
City officials could not immediately be reached for comment.