The government announced on Friday it would set up two commissions headed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng to investigate clashes between police and protesters early this month that left at least four dead, more than 20 injured and 23 arrested, a move criticised by rights groups, which said the government was incapable of carrying out an independent investigation.
One will focus on investigating the damage caused by “anarchic demonstrators”, while the other will investigate how the incident occurred. A third commission will study the minimum wages of garment workers and be headed by Minister of Finance Keat Chhon, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers.
Pointing to the creation of similar fact-finding commissions formed after violent police incidences in the past, senior Licadho monitor Am Sam Ath said there was virtually no chance these groups would uncover the truth.
“Have a look at what happened on Kbal Thnal flyover; the crackdown at Stung Meanchey bridge; the case of Chut Wutty. Those investigation commissions have never got any results,” he said.
Unless the commissions are run separately from the government, he continued, they would be unable to operate independently.
Senior Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth echoed these statements, saying that without the participation of civil society, the commissions couldn’t be expected to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.
“What is necessary at this time is for the government to release all 23 workers and rights activists,” he said.
On January 2, three activists and seven workers were arrested – and some badly beaten – after the elite 911 paratrooper brigade was sent in to quash demonstrations outside Yakjin factory.
A day later, at least four people were killed, more than 20 injured and 13 arrested during clashes between riot police and protesting workers who had blocked Veng Sreng Boulevard.
The 23 arrested were sent to Kampong Cham prison’s CC3 and their whereabouts withheld from families and lawyers for almost a week.