Police officials on Thursday denounced a UN statement citing the discovery of 18 bodies since a Sept 7 crackdown on demonstrations, saying there was not enough proof to link the two.
“It is too early to connect the problem with the…demonstrations in Cambodia,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.
The UN’s top human rights envoy to Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg, blamed police for two deaths and said 16 other bodies have turned up since police action on demonstrators began two weeks ago. In addition, at least two people were killed during street clashes.
UN officers examined four bodies while multiple witnesses confirmed details of the other 12, the statement said. Some of the bodies were found blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs, the statement said.
Top police officials said they are still waiting for medical evidence before concluding the bodies belong to demonstrators.
“Before we reach a conclusion, we have to base it on the results of an exact investigation and autopsies of the bodies first,” said Hok Lundy, director-general of national police.
Police alleged some of the bodies are victims of a recent upturn in crime.
“While police were busy…controlling demonstrations, criminals seized the opportunity to rob people,” said Neth Savoeun, municipal police commissioner. Statistics were not immediately available, police officials said.
Khieu Sopheak also criticized rights workers for not including government authorities during investigations of bodies. “Every accusation should have evidence and that evidence should be gathered by a joint team,” he said.
“We are ready to cooperate with human rights workers,” he added. “They are going to the graves themselves so we cannot take statements and conduct an investigation. We are the authorities.”
Government spokesmen have said that two bodies found in shallow graves near Pochentong Airport belong to a gang of four robbers who died in a shoot-out with police.
“We have also [been] concerned about this crime. Even before the election we have found bodies [that] have been thrown away without the knowledge of the authorities and human rights officials,” Khieu Sopheak said.
(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)