One year after security forces shot and killed 29-year-old motorbike courier Mao Sok Chan, following an opposition protest in Phnom Penh, no one has been held accountable for his death, prompting fresh calls for his killer to be brought to justice.
Mao Sok Chan, a father of four, was shot in the head on the night of September 15 near Monivong Bridge, which police had blocked off in response to an earlier opposition demonstration.
As frustration grew among thousands of people trying to get home, police and military police stationed on the bridge—including riot police armed with tear gas, smoke grenades and guns—opened fire in the direction of protesters and commuters, killing Mao Sok Chan and injuring several others.
“The lack of investigation into his death is a clear example of the way in which impunity continues to hinder the development of democracy in Cambodia,” a statement released Monday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights says.
“To date, no transparent and independent investigation has been undertaken into the actions of the security forces on that night, despite promises by the Minister of Interior to investigate these events,” the statement says.
Military police officials on Monday declined to comment on Mao Sok Chan’s death, referring questions to the Ministry of Interior.
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak was also tight-lipped on the subject.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any update on that,” he said.
The killing of Mao Sok Chan was the first in a series of fatal, state-sanctioned shootings over the ensuing months that left a total of seven people dead.
On November 12, street vendor Eng Sokhom was shot dead by police during a clash between police and a group of striking garment workers and stone-throwing youths in Meanchey district.
On January 3, military police opened fire into a crowd of violent, stone-throwing garment workers protesting for higher wages on Veng Sreng Street, killing five people and injuring dozens more.
Nonetheless, Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong last month distributed a total $30,000 to some 1,000 military police officials for their “perfect” service over the past year.
Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent human rights lawyer, said he does not believe an investigation into Mao Sok Chan’s death will ever be carried out.
“The problem I think is that…our armed forces and police forces are not independent—they feel they work for the party,” he said, referring to the ruling CPP.
“So anyone who does not support their party, they still feel they are the enemy.”