Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Activists who were beaten during protest questioned at court

Activists who were beaten during protest questioned at court

Land rights activist Chan Puthisak poses for a photograph outside Phnom Penh Court where he was questioned yesterday along with Licadho staffer Am Sam Ath.
Land rights activist Chan Puthisak poses for a photograph outside Phnom Penh Court where he was questioned yesterday along with Licadho staffer Am Sam Ath. Pha Lina

Activists who were beaten during protest questioned at court

A land rights activist and a human rights defender who were beaten during a protest in October were questioned both as suspects and as plaintiffs at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday afternoon.

Boeung Kak lake activist Chan Puthisak and Licadho human rights monitor Am Sam Ath had filed a complaint against Daun Penh district security guards last year after they were beaten during a demonstration on World Habitat Day on October 10. Two security guards, in turn, filed a complaint against them to the commune police, for which they were summonsed yesterday.

Puthisak said two clerks present during the questioning were puzzled as to why he had been classified as a suspect by the police and summonsed as such, and revealed to him that the complaint did not actually include the two activists’ names.

He added that a video was shown during the questioning that showed Puthisak being beaten on his head and Sam Ath punched in the face but that no further evidence was presented.

Asked whether he had beaten any security guard, Puthisak said he told his interrogators “that I just took pictures”, adding that security guard chief “Kim Vutha slapped my face and his men came and beat me up”.

They also asked him about the injuries he sustained, to which he answered that he was hit on the head and that he had lost his phone during the incident.

“I filed a complaint and demanded $350 for compensation for the treatment and the phone,” he said. “We suspect that … the police’s report switched around the victims and suspects.”

Sam Ath, meanwhile, said after his questioning that the prosecutor told him that he “issued a summons to question and clarify whether I was a victim or suspect” following a report by the police.

The letter from the court summonsed both activists as suspects. “I requested the prosecutor to find the five or six perpetrators that jointly beat me,” he said.

Chhorn Kaony, Chey Chumneah commune police chief, said that “when people come to file complaints, we write at their request … We do not exaggerate or twist anything.”

However, he said that the commune police had not written the report that was submitted to the court. “The final report could be from the district,” he said.

Daun Penh district police chief Hout Chanyaran declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Ly Sophana, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman, said the two would remain suspects. “The prosecutor decided to continue these cases,” he said.

Wan-Hea Lee, the UN human rights representative in Cambodia, said yesterday that she didn’t take issue with the summons itself.

“When law enforcement authorities receive a complaint, it’s their responsibility to investigate it,” she said in an email.

However, she continued, “Their accounts being amply substantiated by the evidence, I would expect the same attention to now be given to their claims that they were themselves beaten on the day that they are accused of having committed violence.”

Cambodian Center for Human Rights executive director Chak Sopheap, offered stronger words, calling it “perverse” that Puthisak and Sam Ath were summonsed as suspects. “The court should throw out this frivolous allegation … without delay.”

While “judicial harassment” of human rights defenders was not new, she argued that “the situation is noticeably deteriorating as we draw closer to elections”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Textile industry minimum wage now $200

    The official minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors including garment, footwear, and travel goods for 2023 was pegged at $198, with Prime Minister Hun Sen stepping in to add $2 to the total, making it $200 per month. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training made the announcement