The government denied accusations of violence and accused international forestry monitor Global Witness and other NGOs of inciting villagers to demonstrate in a protest that left 12 people injured earlier this month.
“This comes from the incitement of several NGOs and Global Witness,” said Ty Sokun, director of the Forestry Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, during a televised interview of TVK on Friday. “It is very lucky that the local authorities came and disbursed the group without using violence.”
Previously, officials from Global Witness, the World Bank and the UN human rights office criticized the government for the Dec 5 incident, saying local police used electric batons to disperse a weeklong protest of more than 175 villagers at the Forestry Department. Ty Sokun denied that police used excessive force and instead blamed the NGOs for exaggerating claims of abuses and for holding the officials at the Department of Forestry hostage.
“The police didn’t fight any protesters, and when the police came, some protesters ran away and tripped and fell down—that is how they got hurt,” Ty Sokun said. “We have witnesses, ex-pat experts from Germany, America, Denmark and Japan—they can testify that no violence was used.” Ty Sokun did not identify the experts during the interview and could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The Ministry of Interior also defended the government Sunday, claiming that police did not beat anyone and instead merely disbursed the crowd, which was blocking the exit.
“The information they use is from a negative source,” said General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, on Sunday. “It is far from reality.”
The Ministry reviewed a videotape of the incident provided by Global Witness that Khieu Sopheak said showed that the police did not use force. Khieu Sopheak also denied that the police used electric batons, saying that the Ministry does not distribute these types of “weapons” to the police.
(Additional reporting by David Kihara)