When the authorities exaggerate ... how can people have confidence in them?"
SVAY Rieng provincial police Chief Prach Rim says 15 police officers were injured by Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians who scuffled with them in an attempt to investigate the Cambodian-Vietnamese border on Monday.
Around 40 provincial police were dispatched to an area near the border in Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district where the SRP delegation and local residents planned to visit the site of an October demonstration by opposition president Sam Rainsy to protest alleged Vietnamese incursion into Cambodian territory.
“They pushed and hit police officers. Some were injured in the head, some on the cheek, some on the hands and legs,” Prach Rim said. “My police did not hit back – they just held on.”
Prach Rim added that he regretted the fact that his officers could not hold back the SRP delegation because of the pushing and shoving.
The SRP rejected the allegations of violence in a press release issued on Tuesday.
“This news is not true – it is twisted, without basis, in order to defame the SRP, which has always struggled for freedom, justice and democracy in Cambodia,” the statement read, adding that it was the police who had armed themselves in an effort to prevent the delegation from visiting the border.
The SRP called the police chief’s accusations an attempt to hide the fact that the border markers have been placed in locations that deny Cambodian residents their ancestral land, and asked the government to review the demarcation process with Vietnam.
On Monday afternoon, Chantrea district residents and about 20 SRP parliamentarians engaged in a minor scuffle with provincial police as the officers attempted to block the delegation from accessing the site where Sam Rainsy joined local villagers in uprooting six wooden border posts in October.
The SRP leader says he is facing charges of incitement and destruction of property in connection with the incident, though Svay Rieng court officials on Tuesday declined to comment on the case.
Nget Nara, Svay Rieng provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, was part of the group that travelled to the border Monday. He dismissed the allegations of violence as politically motivated.
“The parliamentarians’ group did not hit or injure police. This is an unreasonable statement – the parliamentarians and people just wanted to see the border demarcation,” Nget Nara said. “The police had shields and bats to block them.”
SRP Secretary General Ke Sovannroth said that the provincial police chief’s accusations called into question the government’s credibility.
“When the authorities exaggerate like this, how can people have confidence in them?” she said.