September 16, 2013 - We, the undersigned organizations, condemn in the strongest terms the indiscriminate police brutality last night that left one young person dead and several more injured when armed forces were given the green light to use live ammunition in a crowd of commuters, local residents and demonstrators.
After a largely peaceful day of demonstrations marking the first day of a planned three-day protest by opposition party CNRP, tensions escalated late on Sunday night. Barbed wire barricades had cut off major arteries of the city throughout the day, resulting in traffic chaos at key locations in the capital.
Near Monivong Bridge, police reacted with physical violence and tear gas to a late-evening stand-off between hundreds of police and a crowd of those caught up in the traffic, including commuters, local residents and demonstrators. The scene quickly escalated as military police geared up to use live ammunition, according to witnesses.
29-year-old Mao Sok Chan was shot in the head and died on the scene. A confirmed nine more men were seriously injured and taken to hospitals. Eight of these men were found to have bullet wounds. Many more young men, including teenagers, were beaten bloody by police.
One man had his right leg fractured by a bullet and another was hit by a bullet in his left forearm. They were taken to Russian Hospital, with another man who suffered head lacerations from beatings. Six more men were taken to Calmette Hospital, all suffering from bullet wounds.
Initial responses from military police authorities demonstrate a disturbing lack of concern about the excessive use of force. Kheng Tito, a military police spokesman, is quoted in the Phnom Penh Post as claiming that ‘if they are good protestors, they wouldn’t be protesting [at night]… so authorities have the right to crack down’.
‘It looks as if security forces were ordered to fire live weapons indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed people,’ says Sar Mora, Head of Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation. ‘This is clearly not a necessary and proportionate use of force and demonstrates the authorities’ blatant disregard for the Cambodian people.’
Earlier in the day, residents and protestors had attempted to tear down barricades at a major intersection of Phnom Penh which blocked the entrance to the Royal Palace and a park where residents go to pray. An ambulance with flashing lights was also blocked from accessing Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital. Police attempted to disperse the crowd with water cannons and tear gas, but the demonstration was effectively stopped when CNRP leader Sam Rainsy called on demonstrators to return to Freedom Park.
About 3,000 CNRP supporters remained in the park overnight to continue their three-day demonstration, despite directives from the government ordering them to leave the park by 6pm.
The day began with CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha heading separate marches from Tuol Kork and Meanchey districts. The marches culminated at Freedom Park, where approximately 30,000 supporters gathered to hear the opposition leaders call for a solution to what they allege are massive election irregularities. The demonstration is planned to last for another two days. On Monday morning, leaders and representatives from CPP and CNRP met at the National Assembly to discuss ways forward.
‘Both leading parties now need to commit to prioritizing human rights and the protection of Cambodian people in all political discussions over the coming days,’ says Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO. ‘This tragedy has shown that without this commitment, there can be no guarantees of peace and security for Cambodia.’
Throughout the day, CNRP leaders vocally encouraged their supporters to protest peacefully and refrain from violence. CNRP leaders intervened several times to ease tensions at roadblocks.
‘This tragedy was entirely avoidable,’ says Tim Malay, President of Cambodia Youth Network. ‘We need to know who permitted the police forces to use live ammunition. Their response was not proportionate to any threat posed by the young demonstrators.’
We, the undersigned organizations, call on authorities to conduct thorough, prompt and fully independent investigations into all incidents of excessive use of force yesterday, including who ordered the police to use live ammunition and the circumstances around which this was permitted. Anyone found responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice without delay, and redress provided to victims and their families.
Action for Environment and Community (AEC)
Boeung Kak Lake Community (BKL)
Borei Keila Community (BK)
Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Cambodian Confederation Unions (CCU)
Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)
Cambodia's Independent Civil-Servants Association (CICA)
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)
Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC)
Community Peace-Building Network (CPN)
Empowering Youth in Cambodia (EYC)
Equitable Cambodia (EC)
Farmer Development Association (FDA)
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
Messenger Band (MB)
Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (NICFEC)
People’s Action for Change (PAC)
Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
Social Action for Change (SAC)
The Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW)
Thmor Kol Community
For more information, please contact:
• Mr. Am Sam Ath, Monitoring Supervisor of LICADHO: 012 327 770
• Mr. Sar Mora, Head of CFSWF: 016 525 781
• Mr. Tim Malay, President of CYN: 017 990 689