PHNOM PENH, Oct 7, 2015:
Cambodian civil society groups and an international human rights organization on Tuesday condemned the assault on two opposition lawmakers by protesters who were apparently supporters of the ruling party, and demanded an independent investigation.
Nhoy Chamreoun and Kong Sakphea of the Cambodia National Rescue Party were beaten by a mob on Monday after leaving the National Assembly. One was knocked temporarily unconscious and the other was seen with a bloodied nose.
Many in the mob were wearing pieces of red cloth, a trademark of vigilantes connected to the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Using a mob to attack opposition members of parliament sends a chilling signal to Cambodians that a new wave of political violence can be unleashed anytime and anywhere,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“This ugly incident is the same kind of crude political violence used against the opposition in the 1990s to fend off challenges to Hun Sen’s one-party rule.”
The mob outside the National Assembly was demanding that Kem Sokha, the deputy leader of the CNRP and a bitter critic of Hun Sen, step down as the parliamentary vice president. A smaller group of protesters gathered outside his house and hurled bottles and stones.
“Unless there is an independent investigation and subsequent prosecution of those responsible for this vicious attack, there is every chance such violence will be repeated and perhaps even escalate,” Adams said. “Cambodia’s donors should not only denounce this attack, but they should insist that the ruling party cease the use of violence against its political opponents.”
A group of Cambodian civil society groups also issued a joint statement calling for “an immediate independent and transparent investigation into the orchestrated violence.”
Both statements noted that police, who are quick to disperse opposition protests, were nowhere to be seen during Monday’s violence.
In the past two years, gangs of man with sticks, staves and other home-made weapons have often confronted protests by the opposition and other dissidents, while police stand aside.
Hun Sen, who is currently on a visit to France, has been in power for almost three decades, and while Cambodia is formally democratic, his government is authoritarian and known for intimidating opponents. Hun Sen has warned of civil war if the opposition wins the next election, suggesting that his followers would not accept such a result.