Phnom Penh, Cambodia — Authorities violently cracked down on a group of protesters in the Cambodian capital Friday who were demanding justice for a man shot dead in a rally last month during a clash with police, witnesses said.
Police forcefully dispersed dozens of villagers and monks who were gathered at the Wat Phnom Buddhist temple to perform a traditional ceremony and prayers for Mao Sok Chan, 29, who was killed on September 15 at the key intersection near the Kbal Thnal Bridge in Phnom Penh after a demonstration by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
“Security forces used violence against us,” said Tep Vanny, a community leader in the Boeung Kak area of Phnom Penh. “One of them hit me until I was almost unconscious,” she told Radio Free Asia’s Khmer Service.
Protest organizer Phea Sothea expressed regret that the police “abused” the people’s right to freedom of assembly.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) said in a statement that the gathering started of peacefully but ”transformed into a violent confrontation with security forces, resulting in at least five people, including one foreign freelance journalist, receiving minor injuries”.
The ceremony was held ahead of a planned march to a Phnom Penh court to submit a petition calling for an investigation into Mao Sok Chan’s death, who was shot in the head in the September 15 incident. Nine others were wounded in the same incident.
The government has not disclosed details of the investigations into the Mao Sok Chan case over a month after his death.
The petition also called for more independence for television statons, the removal of censorship, and for allowing station to “accurately report the real events that occur in Cambodian society,” said the statement.
“The organizers were prevented from carrying out their plan” by security forces in Daun Penh who disrupted the group at Wat Phnom, said the Radio Free Asia report.
“They refused to allow the participants and monks to perform the ceremony for Mr. Mao Sok Chan and attempted to confiscate the group’s materials,” the statement said. “The security forces also attempted to seize the cameras of journalists and observers who were monitoring the event”.
Tensions escalated when the participants tried to protect their materials and equipment, CCHR said.
Part of the group managed to submit the petition to the court later, with thumbprints of some 500 people seeking justice for Mao Sok Chan and compensation to his family.