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Beaten CNRP lawmakers eye US trip

CNRP lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun, who suffered injuries including a fractured eye socket in last month's vicious attack outside the National Assembly, seen yesterday after his return from a hospital in Bangkok.
CNRP lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun, who suffered injuries including a fractured eye socket in last month's vicious attack outside the National Assembly, seen yesterday after his return from a hospital in Bangkok. Pha Lina

Beaten CNRP lawmakers eye US trip

Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea, who were viciously beaten outside parliament last month, plan to travel to the US as part of the opposition party’s efforts to drum up diplomatic pressure on Cambodia’s government amid the continuing political crisis.

Since the October 26 attack, tensions between the CNRP and ruling Cambodian People’s Party have soared, peaking on November 13 with the issuance of an arrest warrant for CNRP president Sam Rainsy, who has not stepped foot in the country since.

In an interview at his home yesterday, Chamroeun, who on Tuesday returned from Bangkok where he underwent surgery for a broken arm and fractured eye socket, said continuing pain and complications from his injuries, including numbness in his arm and face, would not deter his work for the CNRP.

“No risk, no change,” said Chamroeun, who also suffered a fractured skull after being set upon by security forces during an anti-government protest on May 5 last year.

Like Rainsy, who is in Strasbourg, France, where a resolution on Cambodia will this morning be debated at the European Parliament, Chamroeun will rally support abroad.

“We plan to first meet with some embassies over here and discuss the situation, then I plan to fly to America first and then Europe to meet supporters in person and the US government,” said Chamroeun, also an American citizen, who fled abroad after being targeted as a founder of the Students for Democracy movement in 1998.

“Without [international support], Cambodia will slip backwards. [Donors] need to do more and use both political and economic pressure.”

Sakphea, speaking by phone, said he would also fly to the US. Suffering a broken nose and ruptured eardrum, Sakphea said he felt “75 per cent” recovered, but still had difficulty hearing. “When I think of the cruel attack, I still feel fear, but if I think of the bigger picture, I’m not frightened. This cruel act was politically motivated and I am not scared, I will still struggle for change at the 2017 and 2018 elections,” he said.

So far, only three people, all soldiers, have been arrested for the assault, which occurred at the tail-end of a thousands-strong pro-CPP rally calling for CNRP deputy Kem Sokha to be removed as assembly first vice president, an ousting carried out days later.

Though Prime Minister Hun Sen used a speech to foreshadow the demonstration, which was also endorsed by the military, he has denied the CPP orchestrated the violence.

In widely circulated video clips of the attack, several men can be seen ripping both parliamentarians from their cars and beating them. “I don’t think they will make any more arrests,” Chamroeun said.

Yesterday, Sok Khemrin, a member of the government-appointed investigation commission probing the beatings, said their work was continuing.

Meanwhile, the EU Parliament is expected today to debate a motion calling for Cambodia’s government to drop the two-year prison term levelled against Rainsy, stemming from a 2011 conviction for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong by alleging that he was responsible for deaths at a Khmer Rouge prison camp.

The motion, posted online yesterday, expresses “deep concern” at the political situation, calls for Rainsy’s reinstatement as a lawmaker and also demands the dismissal of “politically motivated” charges against opposition members and activists. A similar motion has been submitted to the Australian Senate.

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