Pro-CPP Demonstrators Chase, Kill Opposition Protester Near US Embassy
Hundreds of rival demonstrators took to the streets Friday, as the fifth straight day of violence in Phnom Penh claimed the life of one man and left many more injured.
CPP supporters, whose numbers swelled to as many as 1,000 at times, marched through city streets, some carrying sticks and guns, others waving placards supporting the results of the July 26 elections.
Opposition supporters, meanwhile, kept up their spontaneous parades through the capital, cheering, carrying Cambodian flags and waving branches in the air.
The two sides clashed violently at times.
Outside the US Embassy, where protesters have been gathering all week, one man was shot dead in the back by a member of the pro-government crowd, witnesses and UN workers said.
Chhong Samnang, 29, was shot once by a pistol on Street 240 near Monivong Boulevard at 8:15 am, and died immediately, UN workers said. His Nike hat was left behind near a small pool of blood.
He was cremated at Wat Preah Pong in the afternoon.
At least three others were admitted to Phnom Penh hospitals for gunshot wounds to the legs, doctors said. Several bystanders, including a child, were grazed by bullets and treated and released at area hospitals.
At least two others were treated for bruises to the head from gun butts. Still more sought medical aid for minor cuts and scratches from sticks and clubs.
The protesters, who are backing Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, sought revenge by attacking an undercover policeman near the prince’s home.
The policeman escaped but was taken to a hospital for cuts and bruises.
Khieu Sopheak, Ministry of Interior spokesman, said the CPP rally was illegal, as have been the opposition rallies all week.
“We were going to disperse [the CPP rally], but police have been on duty for 18 days already, and they are tired.”
He said he expected more rallies without permission today from both sides, and that the police will work to prevent them from running into each other.
A student protester supporting the opposition said he was not deterred by riot police, who have been armed with rifles and shock batons, and backed up by water cannons.
“I’m not afraid,” he said. “None of us are afraid. Afraid of what?”
Defiant anti-Hun Sen protesters regrouped and staged a march from Phsar Thmei, where they were initially dispersed by police firing over their heads, to the US Embassy.
Their numbers swelled from about 150 to 1,200 before they disbanded peacefully.
Meanwhile, pro-CPP protesters threw rocks, fired guns and swung clubs. Many speculated those in plainclothes were police and soldiers out of uniform.
“We are looking for the losers. They are trouble-makers,” said one of the pro-government supporters, Chan Lay, 42. He carried a club and a pistol.
Mok Ban, 40, held up a club as thick as his arm and said he supported the opposition’s right to protest, but not to create tension.
“We plan no violence,” said Peo Yonos, 23, a CPP supporter from Russei Keo district. “But if they hurt us, how can we endure?”
Peo Yonos said the opposition protests have disturbed people’s daily lives. “When we were under the Khmer Rouge, Sam Rainsy was at ease in France. Now when we have democracy, he is trying to overturn it.”
A rights worker said many of the CPP supporters were trucked in from unknown areas, but more than half of the marchers walked back to villages 14 and 15. They are notorious squatter camps loyal to the CPP whose members have taken part in violent political rallies.
Some of the marchers confirmed they were paid—20,000 riel and 15 kg of rice in one case—to take part in the rally, and were seen being fed bread and water by military police.
The Cambodia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the disbanding of groups of demonstrators “who appear to be agent provocateurs.”
“Some members of these groups, which total several hundred people, claim to be demonstrating in support of the CPP. Many are armed with bamboo or wooden sticks and stones, and some firearms such as pistols have also been seen,” the UN stated. “The presence of these groups has caused at least one death Friday, and they have been seen beating several other demonstrators.”
The UN called on authorities to take urgent measures to disarm and disband the groups.
“Many more ambulances will be needed,” said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. “If we arrest the demonstrators we are criticized, so we have withdrawn the police.”
The pro-CPP demonstration was called in response to King Norodom Sihanouk’s plea for police not to use violence against the opposition demonstrators, Khieu Kanharith said.
One pro-CPP placard read, “Long live democracy in Cambodia. We warmly thank the international community for supporting the election results.”
The government has said the opposition protests are illegal. On Wednesday, the Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy parties submitted a request for a legal protest Sunday that would include a march from the Olympic Stadium to the National Assembly.
The request was denied by Phnom Penh Municipality, but Kong Vibol, a Funcinpec spokesman, said the protest was still on.
Prince Ranariddh issued a statement Friday criticizing Asean, which on Wednesday called on all parties to accept the election results and avoid violence and extremist acts.
“Most of the violence has come from the Phnom Penh authorities, which after negotiating a continuation of the peaceful demonstrations decided to crack down, killing and wounding Buddhist monks, students and other people participating in these peaceful demonstrations,” the prince said.