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‘Painful tools exported here’

Chinese electric batons hang on a display at a Chinese police station in 2008
Chinese electric batons hang on a display at a Chinese police station in 2008. Chinese arms manufacturers have sold similar items to Cambodia, according to Amnesty International. AFP PHOTO / AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

‘Painful tools exported here’

China's production and trade of law enforcement equipment explicitly for torture is flourishing, and some of the devices are making their way into Cambodian police’s arsenal, Amnesty International said in a new report.

The weapons, manufactured in China, include electric shock equipment, medieval-looking restraining devices and striking weapons intended to maximise pain, and are being exported to countries with questionable human rights records, according to the report.

“Given there is a substantial risk that the use of these weapons, as currently designed, can amount to arbitrary force, or torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, they should never be used for law enforcement purposes,” the report reads.

One of the tools in China’s armoury, the spike baton, has been put to use in Cambodia, the London-based group said.

The inhumane batons, which have metal barbs along their length, are “specifically designed as implements of torture and can cause significant pain and suffering”.

Cambodian rights workers have frequently cited a willingness among authorities to inflict torture on suspects, inmates and protesters.

“Torture throughout Cambodian history has been a continuous norm. It is the main method that police use to extract confessions,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

Protesters in the Kingdom are also familiar with the electrified batons and shields, devices Amnesty said are unnecessarily abusive, potentially lethal and no more effective than non-electrified versions.

“I have not only seen police use electrified shields and electrified batons, but I have also been beaten and shocked by them [many times],” said Nheth Khun, 74, a Boeung Kak activist. “After I was injured by them, I felt numb and sick.”

According to an independent research group’s study, from 2006-10 Cambodia received $5.3 million worth of small arms and light weapons from China. The countries have signed multiple law enforcement cooperation agreements, including in 2010 when Interior Minister Sar Kheng accepted China’s donated police equipment.

However, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said he had no information about arms trading between the countries.

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