Military Police Asked to Answer for Protest Deaths

Richard Rogers, the lawyer retained by the opposition CNRP to potentially submit a case against Prime Minster Hun Sen’s government with the International Criminal Court at The Hague, said Thursday that letters were hand-delivered to two military police chiefs requesting information about the fatal shooting of garment strike protesters last month.

Mr. Rogers said that the letters were delivered to National Military Police commander Sao Sokha and Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police commander Rath Srieng, who was in command of the military police officers who opened fire on January 3 on Veng Sreng Street, killing five protesters and wounding more than 40.

“Cambodian military police under your command opened fire on civilian demonstrators using live ammunition from AK-47 assault rifles,” reads the letter from Mr. Rogers addressed to Major-General Srieng, adding, “There is credible evidence that you were present at the time of the shootings.”

“As you will be aware, when dealing with civilian demonstrators the Cambodian police and armed forces must respect the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms,” the letter continues, which was also sent to Lieutenant General Sokha.

“Lethal use of firearms is only permissible to protect life when strictly unavoidable.”

The letters ask both commanders to disclose who was involved in the decision to use live ammunition on the protesters, who were mostly throwing rocks and some crude Molotov cocktails at security forces.

“To assist our investigation, we request…. Disclosure of the orders given to you, if any, by your superiors within the Cambodian People’s Party, with regard to the use of firearms against civilian demonstrators,” states the letter, which also requests information on any attempts by the military police to warn protesters of their intention to use lethal force on Veng Sreng Street on January 3.

“If we do not receive any response from you within 14 days we shall assume you do not intend to assist with this investigation,” the letter concludes.

Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said that Lt. Gen. Sokha and Maj. Gen. Srieng will not provide any of the information regarding the killing on Veng Sreng Street as requested by Mr. Rogers.

“We will not cooperate with a foreigner,” Brig. Gen. Tito said.

The government’s own investigation into the January 3 killings, the results of which are yet to be made public, will focus on who was responsible for starting the violent demonstration in the first place, and not the killing and wounding of protesters, Brig. Gen. Tito said.

“Our committee just looks into why there was violence and damage to property,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean)

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