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Bloody return to Freedom Park

Sean Teehan and Daniel Quinlan

Security forces beat protesters with truncheons and stunned them with electric cattle prods as more violent clashes broke out in Phnom Penh this morning between authorities and protesters trying to gather in Freedom Park.

One of a number of clashes in and around Freedom Park was sparked by a protester kicking a helmeted security guard in the groin near Naga bridge, prompting authorities – which included municipal security guards and military police – to charge at a group of protesters and beat them with truncheons.

Police had moved to clear protesters just before the security official was kicked.

Projectiles, including security barricades, were then hurled at guards and police.

One man was severely beaten after grabbing a security guard in a headlock.

After breaking the man’s hold, a group of officials set upon the protester, beating him to the ground and stomping on him.

Some protesters, including monks, tried to calm the situation to no avail.

A number of unconfirmed injuries occurred during the clashes, while witnesses also reported security forces firing pieces of metal from sling shots.
Tensions have since eased, but hundreds of protesters, police and guards remained at the scene just a short time ago.

Nine unions and associations had defied a ban on public gatherings to demand that the 23 people detained on January 2 and 3 be released from prison, a $160 minimum monthly wage for all Cambodian workers be introduced and the ban on demonstrations be lifted.

The government last week rejected their application to hold today’s demonstration.

Included in the crowd this morning were Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers-elect Ho Vann and Mu Sochua.

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