The Ministry of Interior has “categorically” denied that police are using electrified riot shields against protesters in Phnom Penh.
As hundreds of supporters on Thursday heard the news that Boeng Kak activist Yorm Bopha had been handed a three-year jail term by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, they began pushing against a line of riot police.
But while some officers held traditional clear riot shields—some of which were wrestled from them by protesters—others were holding new-looking blue and white shields.
As the angered women came up against the shields, a clicking noise, like that of a Taser electric stun-gun being fired, was heard, and protesters were seen to flinch away.
Boeng Kak resident Nget Khun was floored after the clashes and showed off bruised hands from contact with the shields.
“I was electrocuted when I was pushing the shields,” Ms. Khun claimed.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said police “never” used electrocuting equipment against protesters.
“I was surprised by asking this question. It seems to be the people who raise the question, it means that they hate the police too much. I categorically deny this,” Lt. Gen. Sopheak said of the use of electrified shields.
Photographs of the new riot shields held by police on Thursday look similar to images of the Titan anti-riot electric defense shield, a product offered by Taiwan-based “non-lethal equipment” company Sang Min International Co. Ltd.
The Titan shield, which features two parallel metallic strips, can give a 150-kilovolt shock, and can emit a 120-decibel high-pitch siren to disperse crowds, according to the company’s website.
“We heard the sound. I don’t understand why they don’t take responsibility for what they are doing…. People got shocked when they touched it,” said Moeun Tola, head of the Community Legal Education Center’s labor program, who was present at Thursday’s protest.
Mr. Tola said riot police appeared to have begun using the new shields after July, when police announced that 400 officers had completed special training in tactics to contain protests.
© 2012 – 2013, All rights reserved.