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Keo Sok Meng (right) and Khat Samneang (centre) wipe away tears
Keo Sok Meng (right) and Khat Samneang (centre) wipe away tears as they talk at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights office for a campaign launched in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Families make plea for justice

For grieving mother Keo Sok Meng, 50, it’s a question that will never be answered in any way that makes sense.

“How can you shoot my son dead over a $160 salary?” she said tearfully yesterday as she spoke of 23-year-old Pheng Kosal, who was shot dead during a clash between security forces and protesting garment workers on Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 3.

“I will find justice for my son, even if it kills me. Why do Khmer kill Khmer like this?”

Sok Meng’s words came at the launch of a Cambodia Center for Human Rights (CCHR) campaign titled "Where Is My Justice?", which calls on the government to conduct independent public investigations into the deadly force used by security guards since July’s national election.

At least six people have been shot dead, while 16-year-old Khim Saphath, who vanished during the deadly crackdown on January 3, remains missing.

Khat Samneang, a 24-year-old garment worker, bounced her baby girl on one knee as she spoke of how her husband Kim Phalleap, a 25-year-old garment worker, was killed on January 3 when security forces fired live ammunition into the crowd, injuring dozens and killing at least four.

“My husband died when my daughter was just two months old. No husband is like having a disabled leg and hand – I could not do anything [to support myself] because I had just given birth,” she said. “I appeal to NGOs and the government to help us find justice.”

Months later, Sok Meng and Samneang continue to wait for compensation and an independent investigation into why their family members were killed.

Ou Virak, CCHR chairman, said the police-led commissions established to investigate the “inciters” of the January 3 killings were biased towards security forces.

“Impunity is prevalent in the Kingdom, and we can try and counter that by continuing to call for independent investigations and proper compensation for the families of the victims. [They] have the right to know the truth,” he said.

Khiu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the government had been nothing but responsive to questions about the investigations.

“We are investigating these issues and have come to some results, but they will remain internal,” he said.

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