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More are charged over park protest

CNRP supporters and Daun Penh district security guards clash during a protest to ‘free Freedom Park’ last month
CNRP supporters and Daun Penh district security guards clash during a protest to ‘free Freedom Park’ last month. Two more CNRP activists have been summonsed to the Municipal Court. Heng Chivoan

More are charged over park protest

Two more opposition supporters have been summonsed to appear in court for questioning over their alleged involvement in a violent protest near Freedom Park, a move that threatens to further destabilise relations with the ruling party mere weeks after an agreement was reached to end a historic boycott of parliament.

Thirty-five-year-old An Paktham, a member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party youth wing, and 51-year-old Pich Samnang, a tuk-tuk driver, have been charged with intentional violence and joining an insurrection against public civil servants.

According to summonses issued last week by Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Keo Mony, Paktham must appear in court on August 28 and Samnang on August 26. If they do not appear as scheduled, “we will issue the warrant of arrest”, Mony wrote.

During the July 15 protest, at which hundreds of CNRP supporters joined together to call for the government to reopen the then-heavily fortified Freedom Park, the crowd responded to the violent attempts of the notoriously aggressive Daun Penh security guards to disperse them with brutal mob beatings.

Speaking to the Post, both Paktham and Samnang said they would appear in court, but rejected the charges.

“Although it could ruin my life, I must go [defend myself] because I have never done anything bad to people, or even animals,” Samnang said. “If there is any evidence, please convict me. But if there is no clear evidence, I will probably sue Mr Keo Mony back.”

Samnang, who said he is not an official CNRP member, said that he carried a loudspeaker in his tuk-tuk to the protest.

“I am worried,” he said of his coming court date. If the courts were independent and neutral, he added, “I would not be worried.”

Paktham also said he was not involved in any of the violence and was merely at the park as an observer, adding that rather than attacking the security guards, he tried to intervene to prevent the beatings.

“When I appear [in court], I want to ask the judge who summonsed me what proof he had that I fought public civil servants,” Paktham said. “This issue is politically motivated because we are the youths of the [opposition],” he added.

Mony yesterday declined to comment on the case.

The summonses bring the number of CNRP supporters and lawmakers called to court over the violence to 14.

Three opposition party youth activists have yet to be granted bail.

Last week, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said continued arrests and a failure to drop the existing charges against party members would be taken as a sign that the Kingdom’s political crisis was still ongoing.

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