Video footage of Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penh Vuth bashing a defenceless man with a bullhorn on Monday has sparked outrage and demands for his ouster, but his boss told the Post yesterday that people shouldn’t be too hasty to judge, suggesting the footage may have been digitally altered.
A video that has gone viral on Facebook shows Penh Vuth accusing Sok Ny, a 35-year-old motodop sitting on his motorbike, of involvement in a protest outside the Ministry of Information, before bashing him over the head with his bullhorn, then watching as the yielding Ny is beaten viciously with a baton by two district security guards.
But yesterday, Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath said that although he had not yet seen the video, digital trickery may be at hand.
“I have no more comment or explanation about whether my official committed wrong or not, because using technology the video could have edited out other people to be replaced by my official,” he said.
“We need time to investigate after we watch the video clip that you mention, [because] in the past, some actors have had their heads cut [out] to replace the head [of someone else] on YouTube for the public in order to defame them.”
Other videos that have been uploaded online, however, show Penh Vuth directing district security guards through his bullhorn at the scene and watching as Ny is beaten.
Chan Vichet, a monitor at a local NGO who filmed the damning footage, rejected Sambath’s speculation that he had digitally manipulated the video.
“The video that I published on Facebook is the real video that I took during the authorities’ crackdown against protesters in front of the Ministry of Information on Monday,” he said.
“I filmed a long video, but I cut this clip showing Mr Sok Penh Vuth attacking the protester in order to inform the public so they know about the fault of the authority.”
Ny, who required stitches for head wounds following the incident, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
He told the Post at the scene: “The security forces and civil officials hit me with their fists and batons many times until my head was bleeding and I fell to the ground.”
According to Ath Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for rights group Licadho, a number of the injured, including Ny, are considering filing complaints against authorities.
Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent lawyer and head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that under Cambodian law, Penh Vuth could only be investigated if Ny filed a complaint.
“But the first question is, does the victim dare to file a complaint? Because according to the law, only the victim, the direct victim, has the power to complain,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Monday that he “did not see anything wrong” with Penh Vuth’s actions.
But Mouen Tola of the Community Legal Education Centre told the Post there was no doubt of the government’s need to take action.
“If Cambodia is not a double-standard country, this guy should be prosecuted and sent to jail … and he should no longer be in the position [of power],” he said.
Mek Kea, 61, who needed seven stitches after being beaten on the side of the head with a baton and then kneed in the chin on Monday, said he planned on filing a complaint against authorities “in order to find justice and compensation”.
According to Article 19 of the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations, “[c]ompetent authorities designated to maintain security, safety and public order at venues of peaceful assembly shall wear proper uniforms and display name plates and identity codes on the front parts of their uniforms and adhere to the attitude of absolute patience”.
Monday’s demonstration was denied permission by authorities and also defied the Phnom Penh Municipality’s current ban on public assembly.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH