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Groups seeking answers on ‘disappeared’ Veng Sreng protester

Protesters chant on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard during garment industry protests that turned deadly in January 2014.
Protesters chant on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard during garment industry protests that turned deadly in January 2014. Pha Lina

Groups seeking answers on ‘disappeared’ Veng Sreng protester

Civil rights organisations on Wednesday once again urged the government to investigate the disappearance of 16-year-old Khim Saphath, who disappeared amid a violent crackdown by security forces on striking workers in 2014 on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard.

Wednesday marked the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, during which renewed calls were made for the government to continue to probe the mystery surrounding Saphath’s case.

A witness last saw Saphath bleeding from a gunshot wound to his chest and being taken away by security forces, who fatally shot four other protesters during the January 2014 demonstration. He is presumed dead, though his body has never been found.

Yesterday his father, Khim Souern, said he had no hope of ever knowing his son’s fate. “I never saw his body, but I assume he’s already dead, under the authorities’ hands,” he said. “I have no hope in the government to find justice for my son. I don’t trust the government.”

Licadho human rights monitor Am Sam Ath said Licadho had asked the government to establish an independent committee to investigate the case and bring justice.

“But I think justice for him and for his family is in the sky,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak, of the Ministry of Interior, couldn’t be reached, but he was quoted in local media saying the ministry was still investigating the case.

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson said the government “needs to answer where he is”.

“It’s cruel to leave his family without answers when it’s certain that the government knows exactly what happened to him.”

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