Two days after uniformed security personnel were recorded on video in Phnom Penh chasing and beating demonstrators at will, a man police say admitted to using a slingshot at the scene to “inflame protesters’ anger towards police” was charged in court.
After two hours of questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Pheng Pha, 36, was charged with causing intentional violence after he allegedly shot projectiles at protesters during clashes near Freedom Park on Sunday morning.
During the clash – which began when baton-wielding Daun Penh district security guards and military police in full riot gear thwarted unionist groups’ efforts to demonstrate – protesters allegedly saw Pha near Naga Bridge between police and demonstrators using the slingshot against the latter.
Protesters dragged Pha and at least one other man, Ham Hut – whom they accused of using brass knuckles on demonstrators – to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights building in Chamkarmon district’s Boeung Keng Kang 1 commune, demanding justice, Phnom Penh deputy police chief Chuon Narin said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon. UN staff allegedly called police, who arrested Pha and Hut.
Narin told reporters that Pha had admitted to intentionally agitating protesters.
Before Sunday’s clashes, Narin said, a man Pha knew from past Cambodia National Rescue Party-led protests at Freedom Park encouraged him over Facebook to use a slingshot against demonstrators, so that they would become angry at police and intensify clashes.
Hut denies involvement.
Thun Saray, president of rights group Adhoc, said he is reserving judgement of Pha’s actual involvement and intentions during the clashes until more evidence comes forward.
“We cannot say if it is the truth or a lie,” Sary said of Pha’s confession, noting that it’s possible he could have been a provocateur hired by the government to make protesters appear violent towards authorities.
Investigating judge Lim Mok Run ordered that Pha be held in Prey Sar prison for pre-trial detention.
Long Lon, an Adhoc lawyer representing Pha, said yesterday that he will prepare a request for bail on Pha’s behalf.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN