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Veng Sreng beating victim dies

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Military police walk past the remains of a fiery blockade in the early hours of January 4 on Phnom Penh's Veng Sreng Boulevard in the wake of a two-day crackdown aimed at suppressing violent protests in the area. Heng Chivoan

Veng Sreng beating victim dies

A garment worker who was severely beaten by police during a January 3 protest on Veng Sreng Boulevard at which police opened fire, killing at least four, died yesterday.

Family members of Moun Sokmean, 29, say his death was the result of a brutal assault by authorities, which caused head trauma that blinded his left eye and rendered him unable to work or care for his 3-year-old son.

“The government should not ignore this case,” Luch Pouy, Sokmean’s father, said this morning. “The government must take responsibility for the violence they committed against my son and other workers.”

Sokmean had been beaten near the Canadia Industrial Park, where he worked at a garment factory, during a nationwide strike for a minimum garment wage of $160 per month, Pouv said.

After Sokmean began complaining to his wife of severe pain in his head early on Saturday morning, his father and cousin put him on a motorbike and took him to Visal Sok clinic in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district at about 3am, Pouv said. He died on the way there.

No official cause of death has been released, but rights groups have called for an investigation into Sokmean’s demise.

“[We] hope the court and government will investigate his death, including doing an autopsy to show whether or not his death was directly linked to his severe beating in Jan and lack of justice afterwards,” said Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho.

However, Pouv said, Sokmean’s body was cremated yesterday.

Since the protest, in which dozens were injured on top of at least four who died from bullet wounds, government officials have publicly said they will not provide any compensation to those injured or the families of those killed, said Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at Community Legal Education Center.

“If the government had some kind of sufficient response, like medical attention for [victims], this guy would not have died,” Tola said.

Speaking to the Post today, Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said an investigation will be conducted into Sokmean’s death to see whether or not the beating caused his death.

“We have to do an investigation to see whether this worker’s death was caused by authorities or by [another] incident,” Tito said. “They cannot accuse us.”

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