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Fate of teen still a mystery

The older sister of Khim Saphath holds a picture of her brother in Phnom Penh last month. Saphath has been missing since the January 3 government crackdown on Veng Sreng Boulevard.
The older sister of Khim Saphath holds a picture of her brother in Phnom Penh last month. Saphath has been missing since the January 3 government crackdown on Veng Sreng Boulevard. Hong Menea

Fate of teen still a mystery

The fate of Khim Saphath, the 16-year-old boy missing since clashes between striking garment workers and security forces erupted on Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 3, continues to differentiate fatality lists compiled by rights groups.

He was last seen lying on the ground with a bloody chest wound, according to eyewitnesses, before vanishing without a trace.

After investigation, Adhoc has officially concluded that the boy – who lied about his age to work in a Chinese-owned garment factory – was killed, senior investigator Chan Soveth said on Thursday, with the organisation’s death toll thus standing at five.

“We have evidence and witnesses who saw the son shot to the ground on the spot that day,” he said.

But Licadho – which counts four dead – still treats Saphath as missing and is yet to conclude its investigation, technical supervisor Am Sam Ath said.

“We still do not have clear sources, so we have kept him on the missing list.”

On January 12, Mok Chito, chief of the Interior Ministry’s central justice department, told the Post that anyone missing since the clashes would be found if a complaint was lodged with police.

But Saphath’s father, Khim Souern, said he has not approached police because he does not trust them to carry out a proper investigation.

He added that small bribes were needed for local authorities to sign a letter allowing him to claim $180 of his son’s remaining salary from the Hua Hsi garment factory.

Meanwhile, many of the more than 40 protesters and bystanders injured during the January 3 clashes are yet to fully recover from their wounds.

Factory worker Prom Phearum, 22, who was shot in the leg, said doctors have told him that he might need an amputation, as blood is stuck between fractured bone.

“I need an immediate operation or else it will become more serious and my leg will be cut off.… I am so scared so I want an operation but I cannot afford it because the doctor said it will cost $450,” he said.

Only one injured civilian remains in hospital, according to Licadho.

Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said 29 officers were injured during January 2 and 3 clashes, though he did not give further details.

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