Human Rights Defenders Summonsed as ‘Suspects’ after Being Beaten by Para-Police

Joint Organizations

February 7, 2017 - Two human rights defenders have been summonsed as suspects in relation to violence that occurred when para-police blocked a peaceful World Habitat Day march in October 2016. During the altercation, both men – LICADHO’s Monitoring Manager Am Sam Ath, who was monitoring the event at the time, and Boeung Kak Lake community representative Chan Puthisak, who was documenting the march – were badly beaten by para-police in targeted attacks against them.

During an otherwise peaceful march through Phnom Penh to the city’s Freedom Park on 10 October 2016, para-police – led by Daun Penh district para-police head Kim Vutha – blocked the march and forcibly confiscated musical instruments and banners from the marchers. At that time, para-police launched an unprovoked, violent and targeted attack on Chan Puthisak, who was filming the march. Am Sam Ath then attempted to peacefully de-escalate the situation and end the violence under his mandate as a human rights monitor. Para-police immediately launched a similarly unprovoked and targeted attack, surrounding Am Sam Ath and punching him in the face and neck repeatedly. Both men were left injured and in need of medical assistance.

Am Sam Ath and Chan Puthisak were victims of unprovoked attacks. It is farcical that an investigation against them is even being considered

Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Deputy Director

‘Am Sam Ath and Chan Puthisak were victims of unprovoked attacks,’ said Naly Pilorge, Deputy Director for Advocacy at LICADHO. ‘It is farcical that an investigation against them is even being considered.’

Am Sam Ath and Chan Puthisak have been summonsed to appear before prosecutor Ngin Pich on 8 February 2017 at 2pm and 3pm respectively. The plaintiffs in the case, Som Sotheara and Tet Chantho, are both district para-police.

‘It is obvious that the only violence committed that day was by para-police, who beat a land activist and a human rights monitor,’ said Song Sreyleap, Boeung Kak Lake community representative. ‘Authorities should help us achieve justice by investigating those who attacked us on the street.’

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Beating of LICADHO monitoring manager Am Sam Ath caught on camera (VOD)

Both Am Sam Ath and Chan Puthisak filed complaints to Chey Chomneas district police later that morning relating to the violence perpetrated against them. LICADHO, along with multiple national media sources, has extensive video footage and witness accounts of the brutal beatings, but neither complaint has so far been properly addressed.

‘Treating Am Sam Ath and Chan Puthisak as suspects after they were beaten themselves by para-police while trying to prevent further violence shows how biased authorities are against public assembly,’ said Thav Kimsan, LICADHO director. ‘Especially as para-police routinely commit violence with apparent impunity.’

In face of the clear evidence that the two men were victims and not perpetrators of violence, LICADHO and Boeung Kak Lake community hope that the prosecutor ends this preliminary investigation against Am Sam Ath and Chan Puthisak, and gives proper consideration to complaints against identifiable perpetrators of the violence.

For more information, please contact:
 Thav Kimsan, LICADHO Director, 012 807 763
 Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Deputy Director of Advocacy, 012 803 650
 Song Sreyleap, Boeung Kak Lake community representative, 012 811 093

PDF format: Download full statement in English - Download full statement in Khmer
MP3 format: Listen to audio version in Khmer