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Activist in altercation at border

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
CNRP supporters walk toward the Cambodia-Vietnam border bearing Cambodian flags in Svay Rieng’s Romduol district in June after claims a border marker had been moved by the Vietnamese. Heng Chivoan

Activist in altercation at border

A Cambodian child rights activist is currently recovering following an incident on Saturday in which he was allegedly severely beaten, detained and eventually released by Vietnamese authorities after attempting to bring a student group to a border post in Svay Rieng’s Kampong Ro district.

Though details surrounding the arrest remain hazy, Phen Bunthoeurn was reportedly bringing 43 students to visit border marker 202 in Kandal village, nearby the scene of a brawl last month between Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens in which 12 people were injured.

However, before he could even reach the post, Bunthoeurn was arrested and reportedly beaten with a shovel handle, and later detained overnight in Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese took the handle of a shovel and beat him,” said Nuth Bopinaroth, an investigator with the rights group Licadho based in Svay Rieng.

“He was not trying to start trouble and enter Vietnamese land.

He simply brought students to walk in a field . . . When [Vietnamese authorities] arrested him, our police were standing by and dared not intervene.”

Bopinaroth confirmed Bunthoeurn was released yesterday following negotiations between Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities.

He added that after the incident, Cambodian villagers in the area grew incensed, threatening to harm any Vietnamese citizens that came close to Cambodian land.

Bunthoeurn’s wife, Im Sothy, said yesterday that she had not received any explanation as to why her husband was detained.

“The children told me that he was seriously beaten . . . he was beaten on the head and face,” she said.

Svay Rieng provincial police chief Koeng Khorn declined to comment about the arrest.

This is the just the latest incident in a series of recent confrontations on the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has been adamant about addressing what it views as Vietnamese encroachment into Cambodian territory.

Party members last week sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, requesting the premier to file a complaint with the International Court for Justice over Vietnam’s
perceived actions.

But government spokesman Phay Siphan said Hun Sen has not caved to pressure, and instead has ordered the Council of Ministers to conduct research to find proof of any alleged transgressions by Vietnam.

“It is not the time to file a complaint,” he said.

Last week, the government’s chief border negotiator, Va Kimhong, also told a press conference that the government had no intention at this time to lodge a complaint with the ICJ.

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