The deputy governor of Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district was slightly injured yesterday in a clash that broke out during a remembrance ceremony to mark the day 39 years ago the Khmer Rouge seized the capital in 1975.
Prach Seyha, Dangkor’s deputy governor, was injured in the neck and ear after he led a group of plain-clothed police to seize DVDs that opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters were distributing in Choeung Ek village, home to the most well-known of Cambodia’s Killing Fields.
At the ceremony, which was held to commemorate those killed under Khmer Rouge rule, the CNRP supporters distributed DVDs promoting opposition policies, including films denouncing violence in January against garment workers and opposition supporters.
The films depicted scenes of the deadly clashes on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 3, when military police shot dead at least four workers, injuring many more.
Other DVDs called for Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island – which is known in Khmer as Koh Tral and which the opposition maintains is Cambodian territory – to be “returned” to Cambodia.
Shortly after the clash, Dangkor Governor Nuth Puth Dara visited the site accompanied by police to arrest those responsible for injuring Seyha.
Puth Dara also ordered Phath Phalla, CNRP deputy executive committee president for Phnom Penh, to be questioned at the Dangkor district office.
“We will file a complaint [to the court]. We cannot allow people who commit crimes to get away,” Puth Dara said.
Phalla declined to go to the district office, requesting the pair meet at the site of the incident to talk; however, Puth Dara rejected the proposal.
“There is no problem. District Hall is the place where the state’s work is served. We just want to talk to find the suspects,” Puth Dara said.
“If [Puth Dara] wanted those discs, he should have told me, I would take them for him. He seized them by himself like this and it caused the public to get angry,” Phalla said.
Seyha declined to comment on what led to the clash, adding that the CNRP supporters had breached an agreement between the district and the party for the commemoration.
Man Phalla, executive president of the CNRP for Phnom Penh, blamed authorities for seizing the discs without first warning them, which he said had provoked the crowd’s rage.
“Sometimes the authorities need to show their identity, too. Sometimes [CNRP supporters] don’t know, they think [the authorities] are provocateurs. So we would like all authorities to wear uniforms,” he said.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche declined to comment.
The CNRP and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party were close to reaching a deal prior to Khmer New Year, following top-level talks.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said they had reached a deal, which included calling an election five months early, in February 2018. But Rainsy later said he had not agreed to the proposal, adding that the negotiations were only “80 per cent” complete.