Gov’t Denies Deaths Tied To Protests

The government on Sunday rebutted suggestions that bodies found around the capital in the last few weeks are related to a crackdown on opposition demonstrations, and it blamed UN rights workers for disturbing evidence.

“The UN [human rights center] says some [bodies] might be linked with demonstrations, but the evidence shows the contrary,” government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

Part of that evidence was re­leased Sunday when a 3-month-old government body in charge of human rights produced a three-page report on six bodies found in Kandal province, Khieu Kan­ha­rith said.

The Cambodian Human Rights Commission released a list of the approximate ages and causes of deaths for six bodies found in Kandal province between Sept 1 and Friday. The report identifies three of the bodies and states that  they died in domestic or local disputes; other bodies in the report were not identified.

In addition, the report alleges that UN human rights workers tampered with one of the unidentified bodies during an investigation.

The report comes four days after Thomas Hammarberg, the UN’s top human rights envoy to Cambodia, expressed “grave concern” over the discoveries of 18 bodies since government police began cracking down Sept 7 on opposition protests in the capital.

The government contends the UN’s alleged tampering took place Sept 13 in Krang Svay village, Kandal province. The male victim, in his 20s, was found floating in a canal in a rice field, the report states. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, and was found gagged, blindfolded and with its hands tied behind its back. Barbed wire was around the corpse’s neck, the report states.

The deputy chief of Krang Svay village is quoted as saying that human rights workers inadvertently cut the body when removing a shirt with a knife and took the rope that was used to tie the victim, as well as a magic amulet to ward off evil and the corpse’s golden teeth.

“The examinations by the competent authorities suggests that the state of this corpse was totally changed from its original one,” the report states. The deputy chief is quoted as saying “these…wounds were created by the human rights team.”

The report said judicial and penal police are also investigating the apparent murders of two other unidentified bodies. One, a male in his 30s, was found in Bunna village, Kandal Stung district, shot three times in the head at close range, the report states.

The other unidentified body, described as a male in his late 30s, was found near the Mekong River in Kieng Svay district with three gunshot wounds. The body was found naked except for a krama around its neck. The report says there were two bullet wounds to the chest and one to the head.

UN rights workers reached Sunday said they were not prepared to comment on the government report.

On Sunday, the UN confirmed it found three more bodies last week floating in rivers or ponds near Phnom Penh, a human rights worker confirmed. It remained unclear if the bodies were those of new victims or of those which previously had been reported to the agency, the rights worker said.

At least two people where shot to death during opposition demonstrations in the capital. Rights workers have examined four additional bodies, while multiple witnesses confirmed details of another 12 found dead in and around the capital, Hammarberg said on Wednesday.

Human rights workers could not confirm if the bodies described in the government report were the same ones referred to in the UN statement.

The two prime ministers created the Cambodian Human Rights Committee in June to investigate human rights abuses. The committee is headed by two close advisers to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, Om Yentieng and Svay Sitha. The other two members are advisers to First Prime Minister Ung Huot.

Members of the three-month old commission could not be reached for comment Sunday.


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