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7 Injured During Cambodian Opposition Meeting

(File Photo) Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua goes through a security check at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Sept. 8, 2010.
Seven people were injured Monday when supporters of opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua clashed with private security forces outside Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.

Witnesses said civilian security guards armed with batons began beating anyone near the lawmaker as she tried to enter the park. The site was established as a place for public gatherings but has been closed to the public since a crackdown on demonstrations in January.

At least one person was seriously injured.

Mu Sochua called the attacks "extremely cruel."

"This is not the first time that the Hun Sen government has used [private security forces] to crack down and to silence those who dare to stand up," she said. "Once their boss gave the order, they started to carry people away and beat them up mercilessly."

The head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center said using private security forces to enforce a ban on public gatherings is illegal.

"By sealing off Freedom Park without allowing anybody in is a violation of the constitution committed by the government," said Moeun Tola. "Those security guards are not law enforcement officers and using them to crack down on people is illegal."

A spokesman for the city administration dismissed the criticism.

"No, there is no human rights violation," said Long Dimanche. "We only enforce the law. For the past incidents, whoever created them must be held accountable."

Cambodia has seen an increase in violent clashes since the opposition declared that elections held last July were rigged. In January, five people were killed and 40 injured when an elite military unit fired into a crowd of protesting garment workers outside Phnom Penh.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer service.