After Attack, Protesters Demand Release of Injured Teen

More than 100 people protested outside the Chbar Ampov district police station Monday calling for the release of a 16-year-old they claimed was denied hospital treatment after being wounded by Vietnamese men accused of attacking a crowd of youths playing football on Sunday evening.

About 50 people surrounded the gates of the police headquarters Monday morning but the crowd quickly grew, with tensions flaring at 11:30 a.m. when protesters tried to pull open the gates of the building to allow the wounded boy’s mother inside the building.

Mey Chakriya, district penal police chief, said officers arrested seven Vietnamese men and one Cambodian on Sunday but had not determined what provoked the fight and would send the case to court.

“When our police arrived, the fight had ended and both parties had suffered injuries, including one Vietnamese man who was cut on the head and the Khmer guy,” he said, referring to 16-year-old Keo Sotheara.

Mr. Chakriya said that the teen had been treated at a local clinic for a gash to his back before being taken to the police station where he later declined an offer to go to the hospital.

Police released the 16-year-old at 12:30 p.m. to cheers of “victory” from the crowd and he was brought to the office of human rights group Licadho, where he was examined by a doctor.

“The victim received 37 stitches from a bottle wound and lost a lot of blood, he is very weak and right now we are providing health treatment and food,” said Am Sam Ath, technical advisor for Licadho.

There were audible though isolated stirrings of anti-Vietnamese sentiment among the crowd throughout the morning, with a handful of protesters accusing police of protecting the Vietnamese suspects.

Several witnesses angrily described an unprovoked attack by Vietnamese men in their 20s and 30s who they said wielded broken bottles and samurai swords to attack youngsters who were playing football outside their house.

“They were playing football in the street and were unarmed, which shows the Vietnamese attackers were attempting to kill Khmer people,” said CNRP official Lak Sopheap. But she insisted the protest was not racial in nature.

“The people have gathered here in support of the victim and his family as the district police did not allow him to get treatment at the hospital and he has been detained at police headquarters since Monday evening,” Ms. Sopheap said.

In February, Nguyen Vann Chean, a 28-year-old ethnic Vietnamese man, was beaten to death by an angry mob following a minor traffic accident in Meanchey district. The beating was reportedly sparked by a bystander yelling out “Yuon fight Khmer,” using a sometimes derogatory term for Vietnamese.

Deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin downplayed the racial language used by some of the protesters Monday but criticized them for swarming the district police office.

“This is just a small group of people who don’t understand yet that all people are treated equally under the law, but they must respect the law and allow police to follow procedures,” he said.

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