Cambodia arrests villagers for 'SOS' to Obama

Featured South East Asia - November 17th, 2012
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Authorities arrested eight people for spraying their rooftops with a message to US President Barack Obama ahead of his visit to Cambodia for the annual summit of leaders from East Asian nations next week.

The villagers living next to the capital’s airport plastered Mr. Obama’s picture on their rooftops and spray-painted messages of “SOS” following an order for them to vacate the land in July so the airport could expand its runway and build a security buffer zone, AP reports.

Dozens of police ordered the villagers to remove the paint from their rooftop on Thursday morning on the grounds that it was illegal and arrested those responsible, Long Kimheang, spokesman for Housing Rights Task Force, said.

“We are being forcibly evicted from our land without proper compensation,” a villager said. “We didn’t mean any harm. We just wanted Obama to help us”.

Land disputes have become a sensitive issue in Cambodia, where powerful corporations take over land and evict dwellers with little or no compensation at all, sparking violent clashes between security forces and villagers.