Two days after the killing of an unarmed man near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Bridge, officials on Tuesday offered little information on the progress of an investigation into the killing, and rights workers expressed concerns that the inquiry would lack credibility.
King Norodom Sihamoni and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath on Tuesday donated $2,000 to the family of the slain man, Mao Sok Chan, 29, who was shot in the head during a traffic jam near Monivong Bridge as thousands of people returned home from an opposition CNRP demonstration in Phnom Penh on Sunday evening.
Relatives of Mao Sok Chan said he was an innocent victim and had nothing to do with a group of youth who, frustrated at being caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours due to myriad police roadblocks throughout the city on Sunday, vented their anger by throwing stones at police.
King Sihamoni and the Queen Mother also donated $500, and other supplies, to each of 10 other victims injured in the violence around Monivong Bridge, according to a letter posted on the King’s official website.
“After receiving the news of a compatriot that has died and 10 others who were injured during the clash on September 15, 2013, His Majesty the King and Queen Mother immediately assigned Cabinet officials to bring aid from His Majesty and Queen Mother to be handed to the family of Mao Sok Chan and to the injured who are staying at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital and Calmette Hospital,” the letter says.
“[The Cabinet] also conveyed condolences from His Majesty the King and Queen Mother to the family of dead,” the letter continues, wishing the 10 injured people who are receiving medical treatment in hospital a speedy recovery.
Military police spokesman Brigadier General Kheng Tito said Tuesday that an investigation was under way into the shooting death and injuries, but he played down any notion that the authorities, including military police and riot police who witnesses said opened fire with live bullets, could have been responsible for the death of Mao Sok Chan.
“[The CPP and CNRP] agreed to an investigation into the accident,” he said. “We did not use weapons to crack down on demonstrators. The case of the killing of the man needs to be investigated—if he was killed by a weapon, and what kind of weapon had been used,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Tito said the probe was under the jurisdiction of the national police.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak referred questions to the national police. National police spokesman Lieutenant General Kirth Chantharith could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.
Rupert Abbott, researcher for Amnesty International in Cambodia, said that while his organization “welcomes the news that the Cambodian authorities are heeding calls for an investigation into Sunday’s tragic events,” there is a concern that it would lack credibility.
“Past investigations into human rights violations, including killings, by security force personnel have been flawed,” he said.
The investigation into the shooting of Mao Sok Chan “should be impartial, transparent and thorough,” as well as be able to establish and hold accountable those who authorized the use of live rounds—something Brig. Gen. Tito has repeatedly denied, speculating instead that shots were fired by unknown civilians.
A separate statement issued by Amnesty said “superior officers who knew or should have known that personnel under their command were resorting to unlawful use of force and did not take all measures they could to prevent or suppress such use” should also be held responsible.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, also called for an inquiry.
“An independent investigation is urgently needed to identify and fairly prosecute all those responsible for violations committed by the security forces,” he said.
U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi, who will next week appear before the Human Rights Council in Geneva to discuss Cambodia’s human rights record, said by email that he was “concerned by the violent clashes and the use of live firearms.”
“I urge all sides to exercise maximum restraint, resolve the issues peacefully and respect people’s right to peaceful assembly,” he said.