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Protest leader assistant to PM

Pankhem Bunthan, president of the Youth Federation of Senaneak, swears an oath of allegiance to Hun Sen earlier this year at the Preah Ang Dang Ker statue in Phnom Penh.
Pankhem Bunthan, president of the Youth Federation of Senaneak, swears an oath of allegiance to Hun Sen earlier this year at the Preah Ang Dang Ker statue in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Protest leader assistant to PM

The head of the youth group seen leading a protest outside the National Assembly in October – attendees of which brutally assaulted two opposition lawmakers – is an assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a decree released online.

Pankhem Bunthan, executive director of the Youth Federation of Senaneak, whose members in June swore an oath of fealty to the premier, was appointed to the role in May, according to a directive signed by the premier and obtained yesterday.

Bunthan is shown in pictures, circulated on social media, holding a megaphone in front of a crowd of protesters, who gathered outside parliament on October 26 demanding that Cambodia National Rescue Party vice president Kem Sokha be removed as the parliament’s first vice president, an ousting that occurred soon after.

After most of the 2,000-strong crowd dispersed, a group of protesters – including one man pictured standing near Bunthan – viciously attacked opposition lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea.

Bunthan, who was unavailable yesterday, has previously downplayed his group’s role in the rally – which was foreshadowed by Hun Sen the night before – saying about a dozen members merely attended to observe the demonstration.

Though evidence has emerged linking at least two of three suspects charged to the prime minister’s personal bodyguard unit, the group has denied involvement.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said he was unaware of the Bunthan’s appointment but added that the premier’s assistants were vetted to ensure they had no criminal history.

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