CNRP Activist Recounts Day of ‘Insurrection’ at Trial

A CNRP activist charged with using violence during the opposition party’s alleged insurrection attempt last year told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday that he had little recollection of the protest after being knocked on the head with a baton.

San Kimheng, chief of the CNRP’s youth wing in Tuol Kok district, said he witnessed the beginning of the July 15 protest to “Free the Freedom Park,” which had been heavily fortified by the government following previous protests, but spent the rest of the day in the offices of rights group Licadho receiving treatment for a head wound and concussion.

Khin Chamrouen, right, head of the CNRP Youth in Phnom Penh, speaks with police officers outside the municipal court Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Khin Chamrouen, right, head of the CNRP Youth in Phnom Penh, speaks with police officers outside the municipal court Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Soon after the rally turned violent, Mr. Kimheng told the court, he saw men in khaki uniforms—like those worn by the thuggish district security guards often deployed against peaceful protesters—pull an elderly woman off the back of a motorbike.

“At that time, I asked them ‘Why did you pull her like this? She is old.’ Then they walked behind me and hit me over the head and left shoulder,” he said. “It almost knocked me unconscious.”

“After that, I do not know what happened between the security and the people because I was sent for treatment at the Licadho office.”

Mr. Kimheng was one of 18 people—seven CNRP lawmakers and 11 party activists—arrested after the protest turned violent when opposition supporters stood their ground against the security guards who had terrorized them for months following the disputed results of the 2013 national election.

Some 39 security guards were allegedly injured in the protests, which the government quickly labeled an attempted insurrection.

In the days following the arrests, CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun called a press conference during which he alleged that the CNRP had gone to the protest armed with bags of clubs and plans for a violent uprising.

Witnesses and footage from the scene, however, showed the clubs being delivered in municipal trucks and dispersed by men wearing khaki or blue uniforms, like the ones worn by the government’s district security guards.

In court Tuesday, Meach Sovannara, the CNRP’s head of information and one of the alleged insurrectionists, again called into question the legitimacy of the court proceedings, which have ebbed and flowed in sync with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s rocky relations with the opposition.

“This is a political story,” he said.

Mr. Kimheng was the sixth of the 11 activists to be questioned in the case. The hearings are set to resume on June 3.

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