Call for UN to investigate beating of Cambodian opposition parliamentarians

By: Daniel Besant - Posted on: May 26, 2016 | Cambodia

A new Human Rights Watch report says the trial of men accused of beating opposition politicians “only scratches the surface” of involvement by high-ranking political and military figures

Cambodia’s government should call on the United Nations to assist it in carrying out an extensive investigation into last October’s attack on two opposition politicians outside the country’s parliament, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

human rights watch
Soth Vanny (centre) and Mao Hoeun (second right), two Cambodian men suspected of attacking opposition lawmakers Kong Saphea and Nhay Chamroeun. EPA/Kith Serey

In a 61-page report entitled Dragged and Beaten: The Cambodian Government’s Role in the October 2015 Attack on Opposition Politicians HRW claims that three officials charged in the attack did not act alone. The report maintains that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) arranged transport for protestors to the National Assembly on 26 October 2015. The protests came one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would retaliate against the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for demonstrating against him in Paris.

During the protests in Phnom Penh, two CNRP politicians, Kung Sophea and Nhay Chamraoen, were dragged from their cars and beaten, kicked and stomped on by members of a mob as they attempted to leave the National Assembly. Police stood by during the assault that inflicted serious injuries on the two MPs and left them hospitalised.

One week after the attack, three of those recorded on video carrying out the beatings were arrested and reportedly confessed. In April and May, the three men, Sot Vanny, Chay Sarit and Mao Hoeun stood trial for intentional aggravated violence against the CNRP politicians.

“The prosecution of the three bodyguard unit members for the brazen and brutal attack only scratches the surface in holding all those involved responsible,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting only three people while blocking investigations into the attack’s other planners and participants shows a blatant cover-up by the government and courts.”

According to a HRW statement released today, the attack bore “the hallmarks of an operation carried out by Cambodian state security forces”. Core participants in the anti-CNRP demonstration were later discovered to be members of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, whose commanders are all members of the CPP, the rights group added. Furthermore, a bodyguard headquarters civilian auxiliary, the Senaneak, led the demonstration, and army commanders linked to the CPP also orchestrated at least three simultaneous anti-CNRP demonstrations by armed troops in uniform in the provinces, the statement continued.

HRW believes that the government hopes to distract from and deter further investigation into the incident by carrying out the prosecution of the three attackers. The verdict in the trial is due to be announced tomorrow.

“The trial’s limited scope means that evidence about possible involvement by high-ranking political and military figures is being ignored,” Adams said. “Donors should denounce a judicial farce that protects those who planned the 26 October attack and call for an independent, UN-assisted investigation that gets to the bottom of it. Otherwise, Cambodia’s downward slide into state-sponsored violence and one-party rule will accelerate.”

Contacted by Southeast Asia Globe, government spokesman Phay Siphan played down the report. “We don’t care about that report. And their call for further investigation is not the government’s authority,” he said “It’s the role of the Ministry of Justice of Cambodia.”