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Answers sought for Veng Sreng

Mourners attend a ceremony at the Cambodia National Rescue Party head office in Phnom Penh
Mourners attend a ceremony at the Cambodia National Rescue Party head office in Phnom Penh yesterday carrying portraits of those who were killed during a garment worker protest in January last year. Pha Lina

Answers sought for Veng Sreng

Families of those shot dead on Veng Sreng Boulevard in January last year have called on National Assembly President Heng Samrin to summon Defence Minister Tea Banh and Interior Minister Sar Kheng for questioning over the brutal crackdown in a letter obtained yesterday.

Five people were killed when heavily armed security forces opened fire on protesters and bystanders during a minimum garment wage protest. A teenage boy, believed to have been shot, remains missing. Dozens were injured and arrested, while a number of protesters were themselves violent.

“A great number of police, armed forces and soldiers under the Ministry of Interior and the Defence Ministry cracked down brutally on workers, civil society and monks,” says the letter, also from survivors.

“We propose that the defence minister and interior minister clarify in the National Assembly the events that led to the shootings, the boy going missing, the 23 arrests and the many injuries.”

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), spent months in prison after “observing” a protest that ended in a violent crackdown and his arrest on January 2. Yesterday, he called for the authorities to pursue those responsible for the violence.

“We ask [the National Assembly] to summon the ministers – those responsible are police, military police and soldiers.”

Defence Minister Banh said yesterday that he will not appear for questioning, because an investigation has already been carried out. “I do not have any duty to clarify this for anyone,” Banh said.

Few details of the investigation have been released to the public.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached yesterday, while Chheang Vun, the ruling party’s National Assembly spokesman, declined to comment.

To mark the anniversary on Saturday, civil society groups gathered at Veng Sreng, but a heavy police presence thwarted those who marched from the area.

Yesterday, the opposition CNRP held a memorial at its office in Meanchey district.

Earlier, City Hall had refused to allow a gathering at Freedom Park and Veng Sreng.

“My son just asked for a salary of $160 and the [armed forces] shot him dead,” said Keo Sok Meng, 50, who lost her son Pheng Kosal, 23.

Widow Chhiv Sarun, 25, spoke of her husband Yean Rithy, 25, being shot dead.

“I have not received justice . . . I need money to feed my child every day. I want the [government] to arrest these murderers,” she said.

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