3 Years Later, Victims of Wat Phnom Attack Questioned

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday questioned for the first time some of the anti-eviction activists suing district officials for allegedly ordering a mob to attack them at Wat Phnom—three years after they filed the complaint.

On the night of September 22, 2013, activists from Phnom Penh’s eviction-hit Boeng Kak neighborhood were holding a peaceful vigil at Wat Phnom when the public lights went off and dozens of masked men in plain clothes set upon them with sticks, electric batons and slingshots.

Police at the scene stood by as the mob beat and shocked several of the activists, as well as some of the journalists and human rights monitors observing the event. Witnesses said some of the police appeared to be working in coordination with the masked men.

Ten of the activists at the park that night filed a complaint with the municipal court the following month against four officials: deputy district governor Sok Penhvuth, district security chief Kim Vutha, deputy district police chief Nhem Sao Nol and district council official Pech Socheata.

Plaintiffs Sam Soeng and Mao Sokha said they were questioned at the municipal court on Monday morning by Investigating Judge Lim Makaron. Mr. Soeng questioned why the court had taken three years to summon them.

“The court wants to make itself look good,” he said.

Mr. Soeng said he told the judge his recollections of the attack. He said he was struck on the shoulder and forehead, but could not see the faces of the people who attacked him.

“At about 10 p.m. more than 60 people in civilian clothes tried to push us away,” he said. “They had big sticks and steel bars to beat us and I was injured when I tried to help the other activists.”

Judge Makaron declined to comment on the case.

Mr. Vutha denied having a hand in the attack, while Mr. Penhvuth said he was not at the scene and knew nothing about it. Ms. Socheata and Mr. Sao Nol could not be reached for comment.

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