Activists Charged Over Siem Reap Tour-Boat Brawl

Two opposition CNRP activists were arrested Monday and charged with inciting a brawl in Siem Reap province last month during which a man suffered a serious stab wound, police said.

On June 27, about 600 residents of Prasat Bakorng district’s Kompong Phluk commune came together to vote for the president of a newly formed association of tour boat operators in the area.

But before the vote could take place, some 250 people from nearby Chung Khnies commune appeared and began protesting the formation of the association. A fight soon broke out, leaving one man with a stab wound and six others with minor injuries.

District police chief Min Chantha said police Monday arrested two men for inciting the clash: Hong Nak and Chhorn Kuch Seak, both 35. He said they were arrested in Kompong Phluk on orders from officials at the Siem Reap Provincial Court, where Investigating Judge Hok Pov charged them later in the day.

“The court charged them with inciting violence,” he said.

Judge Pov said he knew nothing about the case and declined to comment further.

Poeng Chandareth, chief of the provincial police’s minor crimes bureau, confirmed the arrests of Mr. Nak and Mr. Kuch Seak and said police also apprehended a third man shortly after the incident last month, but did not provide any other details about the man.

“The court charged them already, and they have been sent to the provincial prison,” he said.

Ke Sovannaroth, an opposition lawmaker from Siem Reap, said that Mr. Nak and Mr. Kuch Seak were CNRP activists, but that the third man was not.

She said that she believed the brawl had been incited by somebody, but that Mr. Nak and Mr. Kuch Seak had not been the instigators.

“I believe there must have been someone behind it,” Ms. Sovannaroth said. “I think if there had not been someone behind it, attention would be focused on solving other problems in Prasat Bakorng.”

Formation of the tour boat association began after Prime Minister Hun Sen in April ordered that Sou Ching Port Investment Co. Ltd.—which had been collecting commission from tour boat operators in Kompong Phluk—be shut down due to mismanagement.

After last month’s fight, several locals said they believed the company had convinced the protesters from Chung Khnies to prevent the vote from going ahead.

Ms. Sovannaroth would not say who she believed was behind the incident. She did say, however, that Monday’s arrests were politically motivated.

“Now in Cambodia, the court system is used as a medium to suppress marginalized people,” she said. “This case is totally politically motivated and an attempt to threaten CNRP supporters in Kompong Phluk, which is controlled solely by the CPP.”

CPP officials in the province could not be reached for comment. Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, said he did not know enough about the case to comment.

“Don’t jump to calling it a politically motivated case,” he said. “Let the authorities and the procedures work before coming to a conclusion.”,

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