Activists Demand Interior Ministry Lead Wat Phnom Attack Probe

Dozens of anti-eviction activists on Monday held a rally in Phnom Penh and submitted a petition to the Ministry of Interior, demanding the arrests of Daun Penh district officials they claim conspired to viciously attack them during a peaceful protest at Wat Phnom last month.

On Friday, the group filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Mu­­nicipal Court against four district officials they accuse of intentional violence and attempted murder after their quiet, night-time vigil on September 22 was broken up by a mob of plainclothes men armed with batons, cattle prods and sling shots, who they say were under orders from district authorities.

Police present on the night of the attack appeared to be working in concert with the masked men, while a truck was later spotted dropping the masked men, still carrying their batons, off at the Daun Penh district office. In a prelude to the attack, all street lighting around Wat Phnom was shut off, allowing the masked men, under cover of darkness, to carry out their assault on the mostly female protesters, journalists and human rights monitors in the area.

“We hope the Ministry of Interior will help to arrest them and we are awaiting this good result,” Tep Vanny, a representative of the activists, said outside the ministry.

The group also submitted petitions seeking justice to the Japanese and Australian embassies, and the office of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The U.S. Embassy last month called the attack “disturbing” and called for a thorough investigation.

The activists filed their court complaint against several local government officials, including Daun Penh deputy district governor Sok Penhvuth, district public security chief Kim Vutha, deputy district police chief Nhem Sao Nol, a district councilor and unidentified police and military police.

Prak Savuth, the municipal court prosecutor’s chief clerk, declined to comment on the progress of the complaint when contacted Monday. Mr. Savuth confirmed last week that he had received the complaint from the activists.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, expressed skepticism that anyone would be held accountable for the attack because of a culture of impunity in the country’s justice system.

“The culture of violence still remains as long as the police and court officials do not investigate or arrest suspects.”

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