The trial of 11 opposition activists facing charges of “insurrection” – laid in the wake of a violent protest precisely one year ago – continued yesterday with testimony from four of the 29 Daun Penh district security guards who are plaintiffs in the case.
The July 15, 2014, protest saw opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters gather to protest the ongoing closure of Freedom Park, which had been ringed with barbed wire by authorities.
As district security guards – the untrained forces who had waged a campaign of violence against peaceful protesters in the preceding months – moved in to disperse the crowd, opposition demonstrators turned on them, injuring several.
Plaintiff Kim Deth, 30, told the court he became a security guard in Daun Penh in 2010, and earned a salary of 320,000 riel (about $80) a month.
On July 15, he and some 60 other guards were dispatched to Freedom Park by security guard chief Nuth Sokha and Daun Penh Deputy Governor Sok Penh Vuth.
Deth accused CNRP supporters – led by lawmakers-elect Mu Sochua, Ho Vann and Real Camerin, among others – of blocking roads, flying banners in prohibited areas and trying to remove barricades surrounding the park.
“When we arrived at the Naga Bridge, near Freedom Park, we saw about 1,000 protesters, who were the members of the CNRP party, carrying flags and sticks and removing barricades and barbed wire from Freedom Park” at the order of opposition lawmakers, he said. Reports at the time put the number of protesters closer to 200.
“But when we were trying to stop them, they started attacking us.
They beat us with wooden sticks and pipes.
They also threw stones at us and caused us to be seriously wounded,” he added.
The activists’ attorneys and eyewitnesses at the incident, however, say protesters were demonstrating peacefully, and that it was the guards who had first acted violently.
Videos of the incident seem to back up such claims.
Deth said that he had been seriously injured in the abdomen, chest, legs and hands, and demanded $5,000 compensation.
Fellow plaintiff Khim Pov, 42, also accused the opposition of starting the violence, and is likewise demanding $5,000.
“They cursed and accused us – ‘You are Yuon!’” he said, using a term for Vietnamese often used as a pejorative.
“‘You are killers! You are third hand people!’” he continued, referring to a euphemism for the irregular guards. “‘Beat them to death!’”
Yesterday’s hearing was also attended by the 11 accused – who could face jail terms of up to 30 years if found guilty.
However, Sam Sokong, a lawyer for the defence, maintained yesterday that it was the guards who were the first to use violence on the orders of Deputy District Governor Penh Vuth – who has also been seen using violence.
Hearings in the case will continue on Monday.