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Police Bar Protesters From Camping in Front of City Hall

A woman from Boeung Kak Lake community is stopped by local security guards near a blocked main street near the Phnom Penh Municipality Court during villagers' gathering to call for the release of anti-governments protesters who were arrested in a police crackdown, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, April 25, 2014. Almost two dozen Cambodian factory workers and rights activists have gone on trial in connection with labor protests earlier this year that rocked Prime Minister Hun Sen's government. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Phnom Penh police confiscated banners and camping supplies of a group of protesters who said they planned a prolonged sit-in outside the grounds of City Hall this week.

Some 50 evictees from the Boeung Kak neighborhood had planned to occupy the grounds in protest of a city-backed development that pushed thousands of families from the neighborhood beginning in 2007.

Protesters on Monday brought with them tents, pillows, and cooking equipment, with plans to stay overnight on the grounds in front of City Hall. But they were met with police, who confiscated their equipment.

“Why are they seizing the belongings of the poor?” said Soy Kolab, a 58-year-old demonstrator. “They are already very rich.”

Soy Kolab and other protesters say they have not been adequately compensated by the city or the developer, Shikaku, Inc.

Some families accepted about $8,500 in compensation after they were forced to leave the neighborhood, which once surrounded a lake that has now been filled in for a $79 million real estate development.

But Soy Kolab said the money was not enough, and she has been forced to borrow money from a bank to find new housing. On top of that, she is now jobless, and her grandchildren cannot walk to long distance to school, she said.

Other evictees have similar concerns, so the families are asking for an additional $20,000 in compensation, she said.

Long Dimanche, a spokesman for the city government, said police had acted to maintain public order.

“We won’t allow them to do something illegal, like cooking or sleeping on the public street like this,” he said.

Additional compensation is not possible from the city, he added.

However, Nai Vongda, deputy head of investigation at the rights group Adhoc, said Phnom Penh authorities can mediate between the families and the developer to discuss further compensation.

“The compensation was not adequate,” he said.