Activists Summoned for Lawsuit Over 2013 Attack at Wat Phnom

The Interior Ministry has summoned 10 activists for questioning over a violent crackdown on a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh in 2013, the first sign of movement in a case they filed nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

On the night of September 22, 2013, a group of peaceful protesters were on the first day of a hunger strike at the city’s Wat Phnom Park hoping to forestall the opening session of the National Assembly following the disputed July 2013 national election when they were set upon by men in plain clothes wielding sticks, electric batons and slingshots.

The attackers, some of whom wore face masks, assaulted the protesters and several journalists—unhindered by riot police at the scene. A truck carrying several young, masked men with batons was seen driving into the Daun Penh district office later that night.

Ten of the injured activists filed a lawsuit at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court the following month, naming deputy district governor Sok Penhvuth, district councilor Pich Socheata and district public security chief Kim Vutha as defendants.

The plaintiffs said on Tuesday that they received summonses from the Interior Ministry’s penal department on Monday calling them in for questioning today.

“I am not 100 percent sure they can find justice for us because their people can turn white into black and black into white,” said plaintiff Si Heab, who said she was cut above the left eye by a projectile during the attack.

Tep Vanny, who was protesting at Wat Phnom that night but did not join the lawsuit, criticized the slow pace at which the court was processing the case.

“There will not be justice unless they arrest the perpetrators and put them in prison. If they don’t arrest them, there will be no justice,” she said.

Penal department director Sok Khemrin said he received the case from the court last week and had no idea why it had taken this long.

At the court, spokesman Ly Sophana and deputy administration chief Suos Vichearandy both said they were unaware of the case.

District officials have denied any responsibility for the attack.

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