After years of brutality against protesters, rights workers and unionists, opposition lawmakers are demanding the Interior Ministry immediately cease using Phnom Penh’s notorious district security guards to police protests.
The guards, who began making headlines after the disputed 2013 general election, have indiscriminately attacked protesters—and sometimes passersby—with clubs, slingshots and stun guns. Amnesty International dedicated a full report to the guards last year, accusing them of being “complicit in numerous human rights violations.”
In a letter dated Sunday, signed by eight CNRP lawmakers and approved by National Assembly President Heng Samrin before being forwarded to Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Tuesday, the lawmakers call for an end to the use of “illegal” guards.
“We as lawmakers see that the use by authorities of district security guards and unidentified security guards to crack down on peaceful rallies, demonstrations and strikes is an illegal act and action must be taken immediately to remove them and the ones using violence must be punished,” the letter said.
Sak Setha, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, declined to comment, while ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached.
The most recent acts of violence by the guards came last month, when they stormed a World Habitat Day march and beat Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for rights group Licadho, and others activists.
Mr. Sam Ath welcomed the call to scrap the use of the untrained force.
“I see some of those security guards are addicted to violence and abuse,” he said. “Do they let judicial police sleep and get paid while using untrained security guards to crack down on demonstrators instead?”
Despite the beating of Mr. Sam Ath in full view of hundreds of people, police claimed they could not track down any witnesses in their investigation of the violence.
Van Saveth, a police officer in Chey Chumneah commune, said on Wednesday that the case had been handed off to Daun Penh district police.
“We have not questioned anyone yet. We already sent the case to the district police to continue the procedure,” he said.
Khoun Ngoun, chief of the district police’s serious crimes bureau, said he had passed the case to a prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and declined further comment.
Court officials could not be reached.