Gov’t Wants More Proof About 18 Bodies With Protests

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)


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