The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the convictions of 13 protesters from 2014’s deadly Veng Sreng Boulevard riots on charges ranging from incitement to intentional violence, a ruling slammed by a rights group for glossing over the role of security forces, who shot dead at least four and injured dozens that day.
The 13 were arrested on January 3, 2014, for participating in minimum wage protests that turned violent, ultimately culminating in the fatal crackdown by security forces.
All were given suspended sentences that May for destroying property and injuring police, while no member of the security forces has ever been sanctioned over the violence.
During last week’s hearing, which was conducted without the presence of the defendants or their lawyers, police claimed that authorities used no weapons during the crackdown, contrary to reams of evidence from video and eyewitnesses.
Senior Licadho investigator Am Sam Ath said that the court’s decision “shows how the culture of impunity continues for weak and innocent people, because the authorities who cracked down and killed over and over again are not held responsible”.
However, presiding judge Chay Chandaravan defended the ruling, saying there was substantial evidence indicating that protestors were guilty of destroying public property and rock-throwing, which blinded one security forces member.
“If [the defendants] are unhappy, they can go to the Supreme Court,” he said.