Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mu Sochua decries intimidation tactics


Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua yesterday condemned the “system” that has left civil-servant husbands of Boeung Kak lake protesters believing they must decide between their marriages and their jobs.

Activists Tep Vanny and Tol Srey Pov told the Post last week that their husbands, who are both employed in some way by the Phnom Penh municipal authority, had been told they would be sacked if their wives’ continued to protest against Shakaku’s development of Boeung Kak.

Rather than go silently, however, the women vowed to divorce their husbands so they could keep fighting for land titles and for the authority to clearly mark 12.44 hectares of land for residents.

Mu Sochua said such intimidation, spearheaded by a “system [of] those who have targeted the women from day one”, was unacceptable. 

“Their husbands should not have to be called in and pressured,” she said. “Not so they have to leave their jobs because of what their wives are doing.”

Tol Srey Pov, 37, said yesterday that her husband’s employer, Electricite du Cambodge(EDC), had threatened to fire him “many times” over her striking, a claim the company denied.

EDC falls under the Phnom Penh municipal authority’s umbrella and is partly owned by the government.

“I told my husband to divorce me, because I do not want to stand by and watch him get fired because of me,” she said, adding that she had all but filed for divorce last week before deciding against it.

“If my husband gets threatened again and his work is affected because of my protesting, I will divorce him,” she said. “I really do not want this because we have never argued or had a problem with each other since we married.”

Village representative Tep Vanny told the Post last week that her husband, a civil servant at Phnom Penh municipal authority, had received similar threats.

An unidentified government official had also called to ask her husband if he was a member of the SRP, Tep Vanny said yesterday.

“This man who called also asked if I was a member of the SRP – but I’m not.”

Tep Vanny said she did not want to divorce her husband, but would if it prevented him from being sacked.

“Next time, if my protesting affects my husband or it causes my family problems, I will divorce my husband – but it won’t be our fault, it will be the authority’s fault,” she said.

Chea Sin Hel, director of distribution at EDC, denied officials had threatened any worker with links to Boeung Kak.

“It is not true, and they should contact me to show me who threatened to fire him,” he said. 

“If their wives are protesting . . . we don’t have the right to threaten or fire them.

“They should not accuse us like this.”

Kiet Chhe, deputy administrative president of Phnom Penh city hall, declined to comment yesterday.

Mu Sochua said intimidation shadowed the Boeung Kak villagers everywhere they went, leading many to feel intimidated and helpless.

“That’s exactly what [their intimidators] want. Look at the woman who jumped off the bridge,” she said, referring to Chea Dara, who took her life in November. “That story is finished, gone, forgotten . . . This [intimidation] can work.

“These women are strong inside out,” she said. “[Tep Vanny] has gone beyond [her intimidators]. She fights for a cause. She has shown all along that … she is totally above their tactics and their strategies.”