Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rare call for end to mob justice after brutal beating of CPP-aligned professor

Rare call for end to mob justice after brutal beating of CPP-aligned professor

Professor Suy Sareth (centre) joins a CPP working group gathering headed by Ngor Sovann (front), who collected and donated money to Sareth after he was brutally beaten by a mob. Facebook
Professor Suy Sareth (centre) joins a CPP working group gathering headed by Ngor Sovann (front), who collected and donated money to Sareth after he was brutally beaten by a mob. Facebook

Rare call for end to mob justice after brutal beating of CPP-aligned professor

In a seemingly unprecedented move, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called for an end to pervasive acts of mob justice following the violent beating of a Phnom Penh professor – who happens to be a member of a ruling party working group – and demanded the arrest of more perpetrators in his case.

On March 11, a mob descended on the car of Suy Sareth, an English professor at the University of Cambodia, after he was allegedly involved in a suspected hit-and-run that injured a motorcyclist.

Sareth – who is also a member of a Cambodian People’s Party working group in Kandal’s Koki Thom commune – was beaten, kicked, pummelled with helmets and had large rocks hurled at his head in videos that went viral after the assault.

Three people – Yath Tithya, 21, An Vinty, 21, and An Phally, 31 – have been arrested and charged with intentional violence, but police have not yet detained one of the key instigators of the mob beating, an allegedly former Daun Penh security guard Pheach Kimhak.

Yath Tithya (left) and An Vinty are pictured in police custody after being arrested on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in a brutal mob beating in Phnom Penh. Fresh News
Yath Tithya (left) and An Vinty are pictured in police custody after being arrested on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in a brutal mob beating in Phnom Penh. Fresh News

During a speech to garment workers in Por Sen Chey district on Wednesday, Hun Sen said such violence must be “condemned strongly”.

“We do not need people to gather to kill people,” he said, adding drivers who fled the scene of a collision must be arrested and sent to court, not chased down, assaulted and killed.

“We need to avoid becoming the anarchic country which has a record of extra-judicial killing,” Hun Sen said. “We will not allow the criminals to commit such an irresponsible act like this.”

While mob justice is common, a public high-level condemnation and actual arrests are exceedingly rare. The last time the premier spoke publicly about mob violence appeared to be his condemnation of a mob attack on two opposition lawmakers outside parliament in 2015.

At least three of the attackers were later revealed to be members of Hun Sen’s own Bodyguard Unit. Prior to that, in 2003, the premier condemned a nationalist crowd’s attack on the Thai Embassy.

However, he does not appear to have spoken publicly on the much more widespread phenomenon of vigilante mobs attacking suspected perpetrators of crimes, and those participating in the violence are rarely brought in by police.

In at least 10 high-profile cases of vigilante mob justice last year, some of which even resulted in the death of the victim, there were no arrests. Less severe cases, meanwhile, crop up in local media on a regular basis.

The last high-profile case of mob justice where arrests were made appears to be over three years ago, in February 2015, when four people were arrested for beating a lost mentally ill man to death in Kampong Speu after mistaking him for a thief.

While the premier on Wednesday suggested it was unclear if Sareth would live or die from his wounds, the professor – who was sent to Vietnam for treatment – was conscious and able to speak again, and thanked people for their support in a video circulated on Facebook.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Chhoun Sovann on Wednesday said that police had identified and planned to arrest a further eight suspects, but he was “too busy” to name them.

Chan Thou, Koki Thom commune chief in Kandal’s Kien Svay district, confirmed Sareth was a member of a Cambodian People’s Party working group in the commune, under Ngor Sovann, a former opposition supporter who had switched allegiances to the ruling party.

“He has been in the working group more than two years,” Thou said, adding the group had donated money to help pay his medical costs.

“He is a good and gentle and outgoing person, and is friendly with people and is not a cold fish,” he said, adding the group was very happy that the government was “paying attention to arrest the perpetrators”.

San Chey, from social accountability NGO ANSA, said that the premier’s call echoed similar demands from the public for the perpetrators of mob violence to be brought to justice.

“I think in principle it is not only government supporters or ruling party supporters, but every Cambodian has to get justice if they are violated,” he said. “It could raise concerns about nepotism with the intervention from the political leader on this case, while on the other cases [he is] silent, however I encourage the intervention from authorities at all levels.”

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

MOST VIEWED

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent

  • Kingdom’s exports to US mushroom 25.94% in first five months to $2.4B

    Though Cambodia’s exports to other countries have been stalled amid the evolving Covid-19 environment, the Kingdom’s shipments to the US were worth 25.94 per cent more in the first five months of this year than they were in the year-ago period. Bilateral trade between

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was