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Mao Son
Mao Son is arrested by authorities in May during a violent protest outside the provincial Department of Customs and Excise in Poipet. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Pair questioned over riot

A married couple accused of participating in a disorderly protest in Banteay Meanchey maintained under questioning yesterday that they had no connection to the demonstration’s leaders and played no part in damaging public property.

Mao Son, 35, and his wife, Van Sreymom, 27, have previously been accused of involvement in the disturbances during a May protest in Poipet that saw participants damage a customs office.

During the court questioning, they denied having any connection to the riot’s alleged leaders, local opposition official Chao Veasna and unionist Din Puthy, who have denied having a role.

“I told the judge, ‘I never knew either of them and had never seen them’,” said Son.

According to Son, investigating judge Ek Poliphil asked why they had joined the protest, and he explained he was unhappy about the cost of bringing goods back from Thailand, which he relied on for his job as a porter, but that he had no role in the damage done to the building. He said he was severely beaten by police marshalling the event but a complaint he had lodged had apparently been ignored.

“Police officials started to step on my foot, slapped my face, beat my chest and dragged me. They also hit me in the head. My chest still hurts now,” he said. “The court has taken no action over my complaint.”

According to Bin Sophorn, a monitor for Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey province, the NGO has provided lawyers to several people questioned over the protest, however none were provided to the couple as they were only being questioned as witnesses in this instance.

“The court asked them about the two men, as they attempted to find the mastermind behind the violence,” she said.

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