Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fresh violence at Freedom Park

Fresh violence at Freedom Park

A man who was kneed by a municipal security officer has his head wound tended to in Phnom Penh yesterday.
A man who was kneed by a municipal security officer has his head wound tended to in Phnom Penh yesterday. BEN WOODS/CNRP

Fresh violence at Freedom Park

At Least 10 people were injured yesterday when about 30 district security guards attacked a peaceful crowd of journalists, NGO workers and supporters of opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua after she ran into the middle of Freedom Park on her sixth attempt to draw attention to the government’s blockade of the designated protest space.

According to Am Sam Ath, chief monitor at rights group Licadho, three journalists and seven Cambodia National Rescue Party youth supporters were injured when baton-wielding Daun Penh district security guards, who have become infamous for their violent behaviour at protests, were ordered to attack the crowd at about 8:30am.

Three youths were left with head injuries, while the other four where badly kicked, kneed, stomped on and beaten, Sam Ath said.

The three journalists, two of them foreigners, were not seriously injured.

Lim Kim-Ya, a CNRP lawmaker-elect from Kampong Thom province, said he was slapped across the face when he tried to stop the guards from beating a female youth activist.

“The actions of the Daun Penh district authorities and the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall violates national and international human rights laws which the Cambodian government is a signatory to,” Sam Ath of Licadho said.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche denied the characterisation of the violence as a crackdown on freedom of assembly.

“This was not a crackdown, it was law enforcement,” he said.

“Mu Sochua, other parliamentarians from the CNRP and their activists are trying to provoke [the authorities] to react and are inciting people to create violence.
Then she takes all the problems that result [from her incitement] to use for political gain.”

According to Sochua, who began her crusade to “bring freedom back to Freedom Park” at the beginning of this month, the violence broke out after she was forcibly removed from the park by her hands and legs.

As a crowd gathered around her, district authorities gave the orders to attack, she said.

“They started going after people with iPhones, with cameras, foreigners or [locals], they went after [everyone]. It was clear that they wanted to prevent reporting and get rid of evidence.

I think that . . . starting today they are not going to be soft [anymore].”

Pen Sunsavoan, Sochua’s assistant, said he required 10 stitches to the head after being attacked by guards.

“I will file a lawsuit against [Daun Penh Deputy District Governor] Sok Penh Vuth, who directly ordered those security forces to beat us and the other reporters,” he said.

A video of Penh Vuth bashing a man over the head with a bullhorn during a protest in January went viral and led to calls for his ouster. Vuth could not be reached for comment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIA

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the