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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bloody gang attack fuels xenophobia

Bloody gang attack fuels xenophobia

A young man was taken into the care of a rights group yesterday after he was attacked with blades by what villagers claimed was a Vietnamese gang.

Keo Sotheara, 16, was playing football with his friends, according to his aunt, when seven youths pulled up on motorbikes and began the attack with knives and broken glass.

Police soon detained Sotheara along with the seven alleged attackers, prompting a group of about 30 people to protest outside the Chbar Ampov district police station, calling for his release.

“I went near the gate and asked to meet my nephew, but the police did not say a word,” Sotheara’s aunt, Kong Sothea, 35, said yesterday. “My nephew sustained serious wounds and I asked them to bring him to be treated at hospital, but the perverse police said to bring a doctor here.”

Although police declined to give details of those detained, the attack stoked anti-Vietnamese sentiment among the protesters.

“I would ask the police officer to beat [them] with me and ask whether or not the blood is Khmer,” Sothea said.

According to Sothea, the victim lived near the alleged attackers’ apartments and had never had any problems with the group before.

Sotheara had had the day off from his job as a waiter at a restaurant, she added, and had gone to play football with his friends. “I don’t know why they ganged up on him.”

Am Sam Ath, senior technical adviser with rights group Licadho, said the group would provide legal counsel if it was asked, but added that Sotheara had not filed a complaint.

“He just needed help and we helped clean his wounds, but he did not file a complaint. We will let his family settle the legal issues. But if he asks us for a lawyer to defend him, we will find one for him,” he said.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy posted a video of the protest on his Facebook page yesterday, prompting hundreds of angry comments against ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia from his followers. Rainsy did not respond to several attempts to contact him yesterday to find out why he had chosen to post the video.

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