Interior Minister Sar Kheng has agreed to answer questions about last year’s fatal crackdown on striking garment workers but has called on opposition and NGO leaders who “incited” the violence to do the same.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that Kheng was willing to appear before the National Assembly at any time to respond to questions about the killings of five people who were shot dead by security forces during a wage strike on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard in January 2014.
“His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister [Sar Kheng] agrees to go to answer questions in the National Assembly over the incident on Veng Sreng provided that [National Assembly President] Samdech Heng Samrin summons” him, Sopheak said.
But, he added, Kheng believes that opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, and “NGO leaders” need to “clarify” their role in the bloodshed.
Sopheak said opposition and NGO leaders incited the violent strike, while government forces were defending public security.
Sopheak’s comments come in response to a letter sent to Samrin last week by the families of those shot dead and survivors of the crackdown asking for Kheng and Defence Minister Tea Banh to be questioned.
As well as the fatalities, dozens were injured and arrested during the strike. A teenage boy, believed to have been shot, is still missing.
“We propose that the defence minister and interior minister clarify in the National Assembly the events that led to the shootings, the boy going missing, the 23 arrests and the many injuries,” the letter says, referring to the detention and later trial of 23 activists and workers who were convicted and then freed on suspended sentences.
Banh said in an interview last week that he would not appear for questioning, because an investigation had already been carried out. Results of the probe have not been released.
But opposition and NGO leaders said they were happy to answer questions.
As vice chairman of the National Assembly, CNRP Deputy President Kem Sokha said he was willing to do so without being summonsed. Union leader Rong Chhun also said he was prepared to appear before parliament.
“We have photos [of the crackdown]. It is not difficult to find evidence; we know clearly who is responsible,” he said.