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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Well-connected 'gang' thrashes locals

Well-connected 'gang' thrashes locals

THE son of a prominent MP and men claiming to be bodyguards of CPP President Chea

Sim are accused of leading a rampage of destruction in Kampong Cham's southern district

of Ponhea Krek, which included threatening, beating and attacking local residents.

Nhim Nhor, son of CPP Prey Veng MP Nhim Vanda, has been the center of complaints

from villagers who claim that their local area has been terrorized by the gang since

they arrived about a month ago and took up residence at the Chea Sim Development

Zone, an irrigation project on the district border.

At least two of the six bodyguards have been seen by rights workers to attack and

seriously injure locals without provocation, often under the influence of alcohol,

and when carrying AK47s.

"I saw a 16-year-old girl beaten up by the bodyguards," said a local rights

worker. "She was pushing a bike, and one of them asked her, 'Where are you going,

and what are you doing?' When she wouldn't talk to him, he grabbed her by the hair

and punched her in the face."

The same worker also witnessed a bodyguard beat a young girl until she bled, after

a dispute about an inner tube that she was playing with in the water, and saw an

unprovoked attack on an old man who was on his way to catch fish.

"The [gang] was sitting in a drink shop; they were very drunk," he said.

"An old man was carrying some fishing equipment, and one of the bodyguards asked

him 'What are you doing?'

"When the old man replied he was going fishing, the bodyguard asked him if he

had a problem, then began beating him. The man had to be sent to hospital with a

head wound from a sharp bamboo stick."

The Development Zone, a project which has been under construction for some years,

straddles the border of Kampong Cham and Prey Veng provinces. Covering an area of

about 10 kilometers, it comprises a series of canals and irrigation ditches, controlled

by various dams. The place has become a popular holiday spot for local citizens.

"Lots of people like to go there on weekends and play in the water," said

the rights worker. "But now Nhim Nhor has come from abroad and is causing many

problems." Nhor is believed to be based overseas, and is visiting Cambodia for

a short time.

A clerk from the local court in Kampong Cham said he was aware of the case, and admitted

that the court had received a report from local human rights organizations about

the incidents, but was unable to provide any details.

Similarly, Commissary Lt. Col. Seng Sokim refused to be drawn about the issue, despite

assurances from the court that they had passed the report onto the police.

"The incident occurred in Prey Veng province, it is not under my jurisdiction,"

he said. He seemed to admit that he had seen the report from rights workers, but

reiterated that he would not be following the case up, and that it was for the Prey

Veng authorities to pursue.

When questioned about the behavior of men in his employ, Chief of the National Bodyguard

unit in Phnom Penh, Chim Sophal, said he did not believe the men were bodyguards

of Chea Sim.

"They would be with Chea Sim," he said. "I think they were just soldiers

who claimed to be bodyguards."

In addition, General Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Interior Mao Chandara said

he was unaware of the complaints against the six men.

"If such a thing happened, the people should make a report to the police, why

do they tell journalists?" he said. When it was pointed out that the people

were afraid, and so had told rights workers, he said: "They shouldn't be afraid.

Chea Sim, if he finds out that his bodyguards committed such things, will not support

that. They must face the law."

He added that he would press police in Prey Veng to investigate the case.

Neither Chea Sim nor Nhim Vanda, who coincidentally is a former President of the

Youth and Rehabilitation Center, was unavailable for comment at Post press time.



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