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Activist’s trial abruptly stalled

Political activist and CNRP supporter Ouk Pich Samnang is escorted though the car park at Phnom Penh Municipal Court
Political activist and CNRP supporter Ouk Pich Samnang is escorted though the car park at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after his hearing was adjourned. Pha Lina

Activist’s trial abruptly stalled

The trial of a political activist charged with multiple offences for his alleged role in a violent Phnom Penh protest was dramatically adjourned yesterday, as the defendant refused to continue with questioning unless his accusers also came to the court.

Ouk Pich Samnang was arrested in late October after driving his tuk-tuk through a security barricade near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house during a protest with evictees from Preah Vihear province, which saw clashes with the notorious Daun Penh district security guards.

Pich Samnang, a supporter of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, has been charged with intentional violence with aggravating circumstances, causing damage to public property, obstructing the work of authorities and participating in a criminal association.

During his hearing yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, he grew angry at the judge and prosecutor’s line of questioning.

“I would like to demand that [my] five [accusers] come to debate with me in court.… If they don’t come to face me, handcuff me and send me back to prison. Stop, stop the court, please,” he said loudly, raising his hands in the air.

He added that his accusers – all district security guards – are “third hands who are sources from the district or commune authorities who arranged for them to use violence against me until I had scars”.

“I could not walk at that time, [and] I was bleeding from my head. I have photos of the injuries as evidence,” he said.

Presiding judge Im Vannak said there was “no need [under] any legal procedure for the victims to show up at the court” after giving their testimonies, but agreed to postpone the hearing.

Contacted after the trial, Kim Vutha, Daun Penh district security chief and one of those who filed complaints against Pich Samnang, said he had received an invitation to the court but had not noted down the date, and forgot to attend.

“I have five or six officials who were beaten during the protest. They are victims. They were also absent this morning because they were busy maintaining public order at a protest,” he said. “I would suggest the court summons us again”.

Pich Samnang was tried on Friday on separate “insurrection” charges for his alleged role in a violent Freedom Park protest in July. The trial was adjourned until April 20.

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