News / Asia

Cambodian Courts Charge 5 Opposition MPs-elect After Violent Protest

Police officers block a street as protesters demand the release of five opposition members of parliament, near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, July 16, 2014.
Police officers block a street as protesters demand the release of five opposition members of parliament, near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, July 16, 2014.
Robert Carmichael

Cambodian prosecutors have charged five opposition MPs-elect with insurrection and incitement to violence, a day after a protest in the capital turned violent.  The clash Tuesday began after a group of opposition MPs-elect and their supporters tried to gain entry to a public square in the Cambodian capital that the authorities have blocked for months.
 
Rights activists and journalists present at Tuesday’s protest say the violence erupted after district security guards tried to violently disperse several hundred opposition supporters outside Freedom Park in central Phnom Penh.
 
The violence then escalated after the protesters fought back against the guards, chasing down several and beating them.
 
Video footage of the clash shows savage violence being meted out to some guards. At least one was hit on the head with a rock; others were beaten with their own clubs. Some 40 people were injured, most of them the guards.
 
The government blames the opposition for the violence. At a news conference Wednesday, government spokesman Keo Remy claimed, among other things, that posts on Facebook proved opposition activists had planned the violence in advance.
 
“If you look at the nature of the violence, it is very brutal, it is very inhumane. The CNRP accuses the Royal Government of starting the violence, but this is truly an exaggeration. If this were true, then we can see the fact that the authorities - the security guards - with that many people with injuries, and from the CNRP activists they have no injuries at all, so we can see who started the violence,” said Remy, through a government translator.
 
Remy said the government would prosecute those whom it deemed responsible. 

“We can assure that we will do our best to bring those ringleaders, those perpetrators to bear the responsibility before the law,” he added.
 
On Tuesday the authorities arrested four opposition MPs-elect at Freedom Park and held them overnight. Late Wednesday the four - plus another MP-elect who was arrested on Wednesday along with an opposition party worker - were charged with insurrection and instigating violence. The six now face up to 30 years in jail.
 
Rights group LICADHO said the six would be held in pre-trial detention in the capital’s Prey Sar prison, which is notoriously overcrowded.
 
Opposition spokesman Yim Sovann condemned the charges, and blamed the ruling Cambodian People's Party, or CPP, for unleashing its security guards on the protesters - who up to that point had been peaceful.
 
“Second, they arrest the MPs-elect with the immunity - it is against the constitution. It is against the law. So we demand the release unconditionally of our colleagues, MPs-elect, because they have done nothing wrong,” Sovann said.
 
The standoff between the government and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, has been running for nearly a year. It began after last July’s general election, which saw the opposition make significant gains at the ballot box, winning 55 of parliament’s 123 seats.
 
The opposition has since claimed that voter fraud by the ruling CPP cost it victory. Despite months of negotiations, the two parties have failed to reach agreement, with the opposition refusing to take the 55 seats in the National Assembly to which its MPs-elect are entitled.
 
While the district security guards came off worse on Tuesday, that was in part because the well-armed riot police behind the razor wire fence surrounding Freedom Park largely failed to step in to help them.
 
In previous clashes, it was the district security guards who administered vicious beatings with batons, metal bars, and electric prods on protesters, bystanders and media. In May, both the United Nations human rights office and the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia condemned the wave of unprovoked attacks on media workers.
 
Other protests, however, have been far more violent. At least eight people - garment workers and bystanders - have been shot dead by the police and military in clashes over the past year. Although the Ministry of Interior says it is investigating those cases, it has yet to release its findings or charge anyone with the killings.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified boarder, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs