Groups Condemn Gov’t Response to Grenade Incident

A Cambodian rights group, an election watchdog and four Japanese journalists have separately condemned the government’s conduct in last Thursday night’s grenade attack at the Ministry of Interior.

The complaints accused Inter­ior officials of violating constitutional rights by detaining at gunpoint opposition leader Sam Rainsy, a number of his supporters and several journalists.

The rights group Adhoc called the violence and intimidation afterward “barbarous, inhumane and shameless” and in violation of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen’s appeal Aug 2 for no retribution against the opposition.

“This is a threat to freedom of expression” as guaranteed by the Constitution, Adhoc said in a statement.

More than a do­zen people were held after a hail of bullets killed the Cambo­dian driver for Kyodo News Ser­vice outside the Interior Ministry Thur­sday night. A grenade also was lobbed onto Norodom Boulevard.

Sam Rainsy, who was detained for three hours for questioning, was at the compound for a sleep-over to protest election irregularities and watch over ballots.

Interior officials blamed Sam Rainsy on Friday for the Kyodo driver’s death because he attracted journalists to the scene. Inter­ior officials have said they will press charges against Sam Rain­sy for trespassing after hours.

The incident ended what had been a period of relative calm after the July 26 elections. Just a day earlier, the UN human rights office had credited a drop in intimidation to Hun Sen’s appeal.

In a separate statement issued this week, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cam­bodia (Comfrel) called the violence of Thursday night and intimidation afterward as “completely unacceptable and a serious setback to the process of settling the outstanding complaints over polling, vote counting and parliamentary seat allocation….”

Both Adhoc and Comfrel call­ed on the government to launch an investigation immediately to find and arrest the perpetrators of Thursday’s grenade attack.

A penal police official indicated Monday that no investigation is under way. Anti-terrorist officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, in a complaint de­livered Monday to co-Interior Min­isters Sar Kheng and You Hockry, four Japanese journalists criticized the “unruly behavior of some police officers who, just after the grenade incident, forced us by gunpoint to squat in one place and a videotape, a camera and film rolls were taken by force from us. We consider that action as a clear violation of the press law.”

The complaint by Kyodo News Service, Yomiuri Shimbun, NHK and Nihon Denpa News Ltd, states that the journalists had been given permission by guards to enter the compound.

Michiharu Honda, Phnom Penh bureau chief for Yomiuri Shimbun, said Monday that In­terior officials returned Kyodo’s digital camera, but kept two rolls of Yomiuri film and an NHK videotape. He said Interior officials offered to return the film and videotape, but only if they could review them first. The journalists refused the deal, he said.

A National Police official familiar with the incident said Monday the police didn’t “confiscate” the film and videotape and had re­turned the items. “If you don’t believe me, ask them,” said the of­ficial, who asked not to be named. He then said he was too busy to talk and hung up the phone.



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