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Regional peers urge gov’t to probe deaths

A young man is beaten by police after an SL Garment factory demonstration turned violent and claimed one life in the capital’s Meanchey district
A young man is beaten by police after an SL Garment factory demonstration turned violent and claimed one life in the capital’s Meanchey district. Vireak Mai

Regional peers urge gov’t to probe deaths

An organisation made up of current and former elected representatives from across Southeast Asia has called on the United Nations to investigate the deaths of two people shot by police during protests over the past three months.

In a statement released yesterday, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) slammed the Cambodian government’s failure to “properly investigate” the deaths of Mao Sok Chan and Eng Sokhom.

Sok Chan, 29, was shot in the forehead on September 15 when security forces began firing into a crowd near a police barricade at Phnom Penh’s Kbal Thnal overpass. Uninvolved in the protest, he had been attempting to return to his home after finishing his day’s work as a newspaper binder.

On November 12, 49-year-old Sokhom was shot dead by police when garment workers from SL Garment Processing factory clashed with riot police near her food stand in the capital’s Stung Meanchey district.

Vice president of APHR and former Thai Senator Kraisak Choonhaven pointed the finger squarely at the Cambodian government yesterday, accusing them of not meeting international human rights standards.

“The United Nations and the international community must take a stand on these blatant miscarriages of justice. It has been over two months since security forces shot dead Mao Sok Chan.… The state is clearly not following through with a genuine investigation,” he said.

Kraisak criticised Cambodia’s criminal justice system, saying it “fails to deliver” when allegations are made against state-owned bodies such as the police.

Indonesian lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari backed the former senator’s calls amid fears inaction could set a dangerous precedent and lead to further politically motivated violence.

“I am deeply concerned that the common trend of state violence and impunity in ASEAN member states will only worsen if this serious problem is continually brushed under the carpet to ensure a blinkered focus on economics and trade.” Robert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, urged the Cambodian government to investigate the deaths.

“We are following up with the concerned authorities and urging them to launch a prompt and thorough investigation into these clashes and to ensure full accountability for members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force.”

Cambodia’s OHCHR representative Wan-Hea Lee further condemned the violence, saying there was no excuse for excessive force from either side.

“All use of force should be investigated, particularly when they lead to fatalities or injuries,” she said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday responded to those calls, saying any move by a non-government body to interfere in the case would be seen as a direct insult to Cambodia’s sovereignty.

“The government has employed a ‘special committee’ to investigate the deaths, but have not yet found anything.… Cambodia is a sovereign state and any NGO that interferes must have respect for that,” Siphan told the Post. The spokesman added that police and security forces had been cooperating with the so-far-fruitless investigation.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said that while the matter was for the National Police to deal with, he welcomed the idea of a UN investigation into the shootings.

“I welcome a UN investigation in order to find the truth and to have a true report from the incident and for the sake of transparency,” he said.

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith could not be reached.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

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