A group of Canadian lawyers has expressed deep concern over the use of live ammunition by police in Phnom Penh during a garment worker protest on Tuesday when a bystander was killed, and called on government and military officials to respect the U.N.’s basic principles on the use of firearms by authorities.
Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), as a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally, addressed their concerns in a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, deputy prime ministers Sar Kheng and Sok An, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, Defense Minister General Tea Banh and National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha.
“LRWC is deeply concerned about the violence that occurred in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on 12 November 2013 between police and citizens including striking garment workers. The violence resulted in the shooting death of a bystander and at least seven additional serious injuries,” wrote Gail Davidson, executive director of LRWC.
“LRWC condemns the use of violence by protestors and authorities. Authorities have a duty to permit citizens the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The use of force against protestors must be strictly limited to what is essential to secure public safety,” the letter says.
Ms. Davidson said the killing of Eng Sokhom, 49, bore an “alarming resemblance” to the September 15 fatal shooting by police of another bystander, Mao Sok Chan, who was killed after police opened fire during clashes near Monivong Bridge following a day of protest by the opposition party.
“LRWC draws your attention to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which point out the vital role of law enforcement officials in the protection of the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Authorities must maintain safety and peace but use force “only when it is strictly necessary,” they said, calling for an independent investigation into the use of live rounds near Monivong Bridge and Meanchey district.
Council of Ministers’ spokesman Phay Siphan said such training was a good idea. “The government tries to do its best, [according] to its abilities,” he said.