Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers turn to KR rather than face official abuses

Villagers turn to KR rather than face official abuses

Villagers turn to KR rather than face official abuses

C hhouk District, Kampot - Villagers in Tuol village have left their homes - some

reportedly having gone to Khmer Rouge-held "havens" - to escape from persecution

and extortion by local military and police forces, say rights

organizations.

UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia,

Justice Michael Kirby, visited the province on August 6 and was briefed on local

human rights abuses, most apparently carried out by police and

military.

In addition to villagers who had relatives with the KR electing

to move to KR areas, the Post learned that Kirby heard of four cases of unsolved

murders, and other abuses.

When asked about the situation, Kirby did not

comment other than to say: "You can not look at human rights issues from the

Cambodiana [hotel], you have to go out to provinces. That's what I'm doing in

Cambodia."

A report made by a human rights group says that at the end of

April, Khmer Rouge guerrillas raided L'Boeuk commune and burned eight buildings,

including three houses belonging to local army and police.

Two days

later, armed authorities took revenge by burning houses of villagers, whose

relatives serve in the KR army.

The same report cited several witnesses,

whose names are withheld for security reasons, who quoted a local policeman as

telling them "I burn these houses in revenge because the KR burned

mine".

A human rights worker who is familiar with the case described the

retaliation as "angry at the oxen, beating the cart".

The worker said

that the policeman and his entourage harassed the villagers with gunfire when

they tried to put out the house fires.

The policemen began "arresting,

torturing, and extorting money" from the villagers and threatened to kill them

if they dared to reveal the dirty affairs, the worker said.

"Some

villagers already abandoned their homes and fled to KR areas," the rights worker

said.

"It appeared that they are afraid of the KR less than they are

afraid of being punished and prosecuted by rogue soldiers and police," said the

worker, who requested anonymity.

The worker described the situation of

human rights abuses in the province as "very serious" and said that, to some

extent, the authorities appeared reluctant to solve cases which involve elements

of the government security forces.

But, the worker added, for cases

involving disputes between civilians, authorities were eager to "hastily get

them done".

"We try to do our best to convey the message but we can do

no more unless the authorities pay serious attention," the worker said, with

obvious frustration.

The following cases of abuses were brought to

Kirby's attention:

•Murder. Victim Chheong Khan, murdered at Noreay mountain,

Chhouk district on Sep 23, 1994. He reportedly tried asking for seven chi of

gold (about $315) that he had previously lent a policeman. He was seen by

witnesses being driven away in a police car and his body was later found with

bullet wounds.

•Murder. Victim Ly Hor, killed on a road in Phum Thom Kanglech, Kampong Trach

district on Nov 15, 1994. Hor was being chased on his bike by two men, one in

military uniform. A villager reported that he saw the men shoot Hor three times.

No motive was reported.

•Attempted murder, sexual harassment and robbery in K'jeay Khang T'bong

village, Dang Tung district, on Jan 13, 1995. Victims were cigarette sellers Ouk

Ran and his sister Ouk Saran. The pair were stopped at night by six policemen,

two of whom shot and wounded Saran when she tried fleeing from the group, who

were talking about raping her. Ran fled, while the police stole a ring and

60,000 riels from the wounded girl.

•Murder. Victim Lok Vop was shot dead while sitting in a house by a

militiaman in Trapaong Kak village, Kampot district, on March 7, 1995. The

murderer was angry that his house had been burned by the KR, and he knew that

Lok Vop's son was a KR guerrilla. Vop's house was also burned.

•Murder. A man named Mao was killed in Chak Chrum village, Angkor Chey

district on July 3, 1995. Alleged murderers: the village's deputy, a policeman,

and another villager; the motive was unclear.

Another human rights

advocate said that these cases had been brought to the knowledge of provincial

authorities. However, no charges have been made against the culprits.

The

advocate said that recently the provincial authorities had started to use

Article 51 of the Statute of Civil Servants adopted by the National Assembly

last year as an excuse in delaying legal charges.

According to Article

51, the human rights advocate said, charges against defendants who were

government employees could be made only if they were caught red-handed,

otherwise an arrest warrant had to be obtained by ministerial

directive.

"Article 51 makes a very good excuse for them", the advocate

said of the provincial prosecutors.

"They say they are independent, but

they also say they cannot derail from the Article 51. They said they were

waiting for instruction from concerned ministries before they can take any

action," the advocate said.

The provincial court could not be reached

for comment, while Police Commissioner Sek Sokun refused to comment.

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