A major Cambodian rights group yesterday renewed calls for the government to launch a “proper investigation” into the disappearance of a teenager last seen wounded at a deadly strike in January last year.
In a statement released to coincide with the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) urged the government to fulfill its “international obligation” to find out what happened to 16-year-old Khem Sophath.
Sophath was reportedly last seen with a gunshot wound to his chest at a strike on Veng Sreng Boulevard, during which at least five people were killed by security forces.
“CCHR is concerned that the disappearance of Khem Sophath is not only an enforced disappearance, but also that the government is failing to meet the obligations they agreed to under the [International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances]”, which Cambodia acceded to in 2013, the statement says.
Chhay Chhunly, coordinator of CCHR’s Fundamental Freedoms Project, said the government has a “legal and moral obligation to investigate this case and ensure that such incidents are not repeated”.
“Cambodian people have the right to participate in demonstrations and exercise their fundamental freedom without fears of being disappeared.”
CCHR has also demanded that details of a government investigation into the case and forensic tests of remains – reportedly determined not to be those of Sophath – are made public.
Government spokesman, Phay Siphan, however, dismissed CCHR’s calls. “They [CCHR] would say anything as long as it puts blame on the government,” he said, adding that any evidence uncovered “belongs to the prosecutor”.