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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Casuality figures fluid as violence continues

Casuality figures fluid as violence continues

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DAMAGED DEMONSTRATOR

Beaten with a rifle butt after being accused of stoning a foreign journalist, a demonstrator is assisted by a UN rights worker.

AN ACCURATE accounting of the dead and wounded has been next to impossible for human

rights workers as stones and bullets continue to fly around the capital, but at least

four participants were at press time confirmed killed since the government ordered

police to stamp out opposition-led demonstrations.

Another five protesters are known to have suffered bullet wounds, dozens have been

seriously beaten by riot police and there is a growing list of reported disappearances,

rights workers said.

The Interior Ministry has confirmed only one death, the Sept 7 shooting of 44-year-old

Houn Keo Davy, a moto-taxi driver. When demonstrators and riot police clashed outside

the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana on the first night Sam Rainsy took refuge there, Davy

was shot in the back of the head and died on the way to the hospital.

Rights workers also discovered two bodies Sept 10 near Pochentong Airport that they

strongly suspect were student leaders of the demonstrations.

Eye witnesses reported that the two victims were shot by Flying Tiger police Sept

9 in Beng Pro Yab commune of Russey Keo district. One victim, San So Pheaktra, 18,

has been identified by relatives but the other's identity remained unknown at press

time.

One of the victims initially survived the shooting and tried to crawl away from his

executioners, but no mercy was shown, according to witness reports. The police were

then seen positioning motorbikes near the bodies before taking photos, presumably

to make the victims appear to be moto thieves.

Another man was killed during pro-CPP demonstrations that broke out near the US Embassy

on Sept 11, a UN rights worker reported.

At least one other demonstrator, a monk shot Sept 9 near the US Embassy, was reported

dead by several rights groups.

However, the 21-year-old monk, Cheng Sokly, turned up alive at a medical clinic with

an AK-47 bullet safely removed from his body.

Sokly told the Post from his hospital bed that he marched from Wat Mohamontrey near

Olympic Stadium with several other monks, and later joined a larger crowd that marched

toward the US Embassy to demand US assistance in ending the post-election conflict.

When they neared the embassy, they were confronted by police, who opened fire. Sokly

was hit in the chest, another monk was shot in the back of the leg and a third demonstrator

was shot in the hand.

An official from the Cambodian Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (COHCHR)

said the shooting and hospitalization of Sokly showed how difficult it is to confirm

information during a crisis.

"The situation is so fluid... we can't confirm anything right now," he

said, noting that it took the COHCHR months to sift through the mountain of murder

reports that piled up after the July 1997 coup d'état.

Mystery surrounds the reported killing of a monk near the Cambodiana on Sept 7. Eye

witnesses told UN rights workers that a monk was badly beaten and the local human

rights organization Adhoc has reported the incident as a confirmed death.

However, an Adhoc official spoken to by the Post said his staff had not actually

seen the monk's body.

The UN rights worker said rumors are rampant that riot police, ambulance drivers

and even hospitals are conspiring to hide bodies to lower the death toll.

The practice is not unheard of in the region, the rights worker said, noting that

a number of people are still missing from the student riots in Indonesia that forced

long-time president Suharto to step down.

"If the authorities kill someone, they are going to do their best to hide the

body," he said.

Worries that wounded and dead were being disposed of by the authorities spurred the

actions of rights workers after the Sept 10 shooting of Tou Kun Nareth, an 18-year-old

student from Chaktomuk High School, near the US Embassy.

Shot in the neck, Nareth was first brought to Kossamak Hospital, but was later moved

to ensure his safety after government security forces were seen at the hospital.

Of great concern to rights workers are the many demonstrators that have been reported

missing since the crackdown. "We don't know if people are getting scared and

going into the countryside or what," one said.

Police generals told the Post that demonstrators are not the only ones getting hurt

in the clashes. Commanders from the riot police, municipal police and military police

tallied a casualty list of 39 wounded officiers.

Intervention police chief Kun Sam Oeun said one of his men had his leg broken by

a hatchet-wielding demonstrator. Chhin Chan Pour, deputy chief of the military police,

reported that one of his soldiers had acid thrown in his face.

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