Three more opposition activists were questioned yesterday in connection with an alleged uprising following the disputed 2013 general election, as lawyers for the accused aired anger over what they considered biased questions.
Sum Puthy, Neang Sokhun and An Paktham faced judge Lim Makaron and deputy prosecutor Keo Socheat at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over their alleged role in the “insurrection” on July 15, 2014, in which citizens and activists took to the street to demand the capital’s Freedom Park be reopened. The demonstration turned violent when protesters fought back against Daun Penh district security guards, who had terrorised demonstrations for months, leaving 39 people injured.
The inquiries mainly focused on why those involved joined the protest in the first place; who led the demonstration; and what roles Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann played on the day in question.
“I just went to watch [the protest],” Puthy told Makaron. “I did not join. I did not hold anything [weapons].”
The judge continued, asking Puthy whether he heard attendees making speeches through megaphones or if opposition supporters were also wielding weapons like some security personnel were.
“They were beating each other,” Puthy said, adding that both security personnel and plainclothes civilians were wielding weapons, though not many civilians he saw were carrying bats.
Puthy also told the court that he saw people running in a nearby garden, some of whom were wearing helmets and holding weapons.
Socheat then proceeded to grill Sokhun, asking whether or not Sochua and Vann were present at the demonstration.
“I saw them joining in, but I did not see them doing anything,” Neang Sokhun claimed.
After the hearing, Sam Sokong, one of the lawyers for the activists, told reporters that the session was biased, saying that his clients may not be given justice based on how they were approached.
“If we consider the answers of all the accused, we see that the evidence and their answers [indicate] that they [did] not lead an insurrection or join an insurrection,” he said.
Nine of 11 accused activists have already been summonsed in connection with the case. Next Wednesday, two more activists – Meach Sovannara and Tep Narin – are scheduled to be questioned in the same case.
Many, however, have skipped their questioning sessions, with lawmakers citing their parliamentary immunity and busy work schedules as reasons.
Some have called on the government to end the case in light of the recent cosying of ties between the opposition and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.