The Student Movement for Democracy has denounced the recent arrest and detention of one of its members, calling the arrest politically motivated and demanding the student’s release.
Authorities arrested Ken Sara on Feb 6 and charged him with inciting racism and violence, and protesting without permission in connection with the Jan 29 riots in Phnom Penh, said Sok Roeun, Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor, on Monday.
The arrest of Ken Sara, however, has come under attack from the president of the Student Movement of Democracy, who said it was intended to prevent a popular candidate from running against a top Phnom Penh police official in a student association election at the Faculty of Law and Economics.
“Ken Sara did not join the demonstration and was not involved in the riot,” Um Sam An, president of the Student Movement for Democracy, said Monday. Um Sam An claimed that Ken Sara was arrested because he was running against Phnom Penh Municipal Deputy Police Commissioner Heng Pov for the presidency of the Faculty of Law and Economics’ student association.
Before his arrest Ken Sara allegedly was told by unidentified individuals not to stand as a candidate, Um Sam An said.
He called for the release of Ken Sara from Prey Sar prison and threatened to hold a 300-strong demonstration in front of the Municipal Court later this week if Ken Sara is not released.
Morn Keo Sivin, the Legal Aid of Cambodia lawyer who will represent Ken Sara, said he has not yet met with his client but has filed a bail motion for his release.
Heng Pov, deputy police chief of Phnom Penh and a second- year student at the Faculty of Law and Economics, denied involvement in Ken Sara’s arrest.
“Ken Sara was not even a candidate for the election,” said Heng Pov, who on Saturday was elected as the president of the student association.
Peou Saroeun, deputy chief of Academics Office at the Faculty of Law and Economics, confirmed Monday that Ken Sara was not a final candidate during Saturday’s election, but could neither confirm nor deny that the arrested student was a registered candidate before his detention.
In addition, only a few campaign posters were on display at the Faculty of Law and Economics on Monday and no lists of the proposed candidates were displayed. The Ministry of Interior also denied that Ken Sara’s arrest was politically motivated, saying he was involved in the anti-Thai riots.
The Ministry of Interior provided the courts with information and evidence gathered during interrogations with other accused rioters being detained, said General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. The interrogated suspects accused Ken Sara of leading the protesters on Jan 29, Khieu Sopheak said.
“He was arrested because he incited violence,” he said. He denied that there was competition between Ken Sara and Heng Pov.
, saying, “It is absurd to say that Ken Sara was arrested because of a rivalry between him and Heng Pov. Heng Pov is the deputy commissioner of police for Phnom Penh—how could he compete with a student?”