Alleged Violent Protest Provocateur Charged

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged a man with committing violence under aggravating circumstances after he was detained by protesters at a demonstration in Phnom Penh on Sunday and handed over to police on suspicion of instigating violence at the rally near Freedom Park.

Pheng Pha, 32, was one of two men detained by protesters who suspected him of trying to stir up trouble, which would have given security forces an excuse to use force on the crowd of peaceful union supporters.

The second detained man, Ham Huth, was released by police without charge on Monday.

“Mr. Pha was charged with intentional acts of violence, and I will appeal against the charge to have him released on bail,” Long Lon, Mr. Pha’s lawyer, said Tuesday.

Mr. Lon said he would not comment on whether his client was a provocateur, as alleged by the protesters who detained him at the rally. Protesters have dubbed such alleged provocateurs as “third hand” agents of the State.

Mr. Pha has been placed in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison.

Mr. Pha’s wife, Hin Vuthy, met with her husband Tuesday morning, and said he told her he was driving past the protest on Sunday morning when he simply stopped to watch what was going on.

Ms. Vuthy said her husband admitted to carrying a slingshot at the time, and though she could not explain why, she professed his innocence. “I think he is not a ‘third-hand man’ and I reject the charge,” she said.

Municipal police minor crimes chief Song Ly said Mr. Huth, the other man detained and handed over to police by the protesters on Sunday, was released for lack of evidence.

Sunday’s protest was organized by several unions to demand the release of 23 men arrested earlier this month over two days of demonstrations for higher garment factory wages.

The protest went ahead despite a government ban on all protests and demonstrations.

After more than an hour’s standoff on Sunday morning at the protest site between protesters and district security guards, a scuffle along the front lines did ignite a brief but violent clash.

A few of the protesters were bloodied, bruised and trampled in the melee with the security guards, backed up by civilian thugs, who used batons and threw stones at demonstrators and journalists.

Related Stories

Latest News