Authorities Investigate Protest Turned Violent

A Sam Rainsy Party deputy commune chief and his son say they were beaten Sunday by military police and a group of fishermen after they led a protest over the loss of fishing rights in their Kandal province village.

“I was kicked and beaten by military police and fishing men when I took 18 villagers to crackdown on illegal fishing in front of Prek Kdam pagoda,” said Mao Sunny, deputy chief of Koh Chin commune.

“A few of them beat my son together and held my son’s head underwater. I was going to help my son but I was kicked by [a military police officer] and their comrades and I was injured in my neck and waist.”

His son, Mao Sinath, was knocked unconscious in the fight and treated at the Koh Chin commune health center. But he had to be moved to Preah Ket Mealea Hospital in Phnom Penh for emergency treatment for head injuries.

Mao Sunny said the protest was planned to show support for fishing regulations, but turned violent when he tried to confiscate fishing materials. He said he has successfully seized fishing gear four times previously from people fishing illegally in the area.

“I have the right to crack down on illegal fishing in my commune because I am the chairman of a committee to prevent [illegal] fishing,” he said.

Kin Kunthea, the deputy military commander of Ponhea Leu district, said the fight stemmed from a personal dispute, but he would investigate.

Tep Sothy, governor of Ponhea Leu district, said he is also investigating.

“Mao Sunny is right in his mission but it was a mistake that he took villagers with him to protest. It should be done by the local authorities,” he said.


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