Charges brought against opposition members for their alleged role in inciting violence against district security guards during a protest at Freedom Park last month were politically motivated and should be dropped, civil society leaders said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference organised by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, leading human rights workers told reporters that, according to the criminal code, the charges should be dropped.
Ny Chakrya, a senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said there was “not enough evidence” to charge the Cambodia National Rescue Party members.
On July 15, a protest organised by the CNRP turned violent after Daun Penh district security guards attempted to physically disperse demonstrators calling for the opening of the long-closed park, only to see many of their ranks beaten themselves. Seven lawmakers and several CNRP members were charged in the aftermath of the violence for allegedly inciting it, though many argue security struck first.
“If we look at the demonstrators, they had plastic flag poles, but the security forces had wooden batons,” Chakrya said. “This shows [guards] were prepared to commit violence.”
CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha was summonsed to court shortly after the lawmakers and an activist were bailed in July, followed by the arrests of a number of party members, three of whom are in prison.
In a statement yesterday, the rights group Licadho decried the fact that the jailed activists’ families were barred from visiting.
“These restrictions are wholly unnecessary, cruel and seemingly politically motivated,” said Licadho’s Am Sam Ath.
Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog Comfrel, said the ruling Cambodian People’s Party was using the courts to apply political pressure amid ongoing negotiations over amendments to the constitution and other laws agreed to on July 22.
“I guess that they are using the courts for their political interests, to intimidate [CNRP] youths,” he said.
But Council of Ministers spokesman Tith Sothea dismissed the claims, saying “crimes must be resolved according to the law”.