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All quiet as Veng Sreng probe ends

A military policeman discharges a rifle along Veng Sreng Boulevard during protests that turned fatal in Phnom Penh last month
A military policeman discharges a rifle along Veng Sreng Boulevard during protests that turned fatal in Phnom Penh last month. POST STAFF

All quiet as Veng Sreng probe ends

The government’s investigation into the bloody crackdown on unruly protesters on Veng Sreng Boulevard one month ago wrapped up yesterday, officials said, though those familiar with the investigation remained tight-lipped about its findings.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said yesterday that the three-week investigation had cooperated with relevant institutions, and the report had been forwarded on to the Ministry of Interior’s upper echelons, but he declined to speak about its contents.

“This report has already been done. [We] are waiting for ministry leaders’ approval first,” Chantharith said, adding that the report would be released to the public within a day or two.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak also declined to comment in detail on the report, but confirmed that the committee had finished its investigation yesterday, and said that ministry leadership will now meet to make its final conclusions.

On January 3, members of security forces opened fire on a crowd of restive garment workers who were demonstrating for higher wages. The shooting left at least four dead and about 40 injured and was universally
decried by rights groups.

Just over a week later, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the creation of a committee, headed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, to conduct an investigation into who was responsible for the violence.

Kheng could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Despite the closure of the investigation, rights observers yesterday were sceptical that a government committee would be able to conduct an impartial investigation into a crime that the government itself had allegedly committed.

“I’ll follow up to see [what they found]. I want to see what they did, but I do not really attribute much value to this report,” said Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Center, adding that while the government’s investigation might be closed, the matter was far from settled.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for human rights for the NGO Licadho, expressed similar doubts yesterday.

“We do not want to see a committee working just as a symbolic investigating committee when in the actual work of finding justice it has nothing,” he said.

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