Municipal police on Monday night arrested an opposition party candidate and her husband, a high-ranking Ministry of Interior official, and accused the man of a five-month-old murder.
Sam Rainsy Party candidate Ly Rosamy said she was detained for two hours Monday night without explanation, and her still-jailed husband was severely beaten.
Rights workers, a doctor and a lawyer were prevented Tuesday from seeing Danh Teav, a commander in the Ministry of Interior’s anti-terrorist department. Police said he was in PJ Prison in connection with the February murder of a businessman who imported video games.
After repeated requests, Ly Rosamy was permitted to deliver food to her husband mid-day Tuesday. In an interview outside police headquarters, she said that his head and face were swollen and bruised from apparent beatings, and that he could not get up without assistance.
“I think the real target is me,” said Ly Rosamy, 30, a leader of the Cham community. She said authorities would be careful about attacking a candidate, so a way of intimidation would be to arrest and beat her spouse.
But Doung Vantha, deputy chief of municipal penal police, on Tuesday described Danh Teav as a “henchman” who murdered businessman Vinh Hong.
The deputy police chief said Danh Teav shot the video game importer twice from behind with a pistol and wounded his wife in central Phnom Penh. He said Danh Teav was hired by someone who paid him enough money to buy a motorbike.
Rosemary McCreery, director of the UN human rights center in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday afternoon that her office couldn’t yet comment on the case. “We’re still trying to get access to him [Danh Teav] and figure out what’s going on.”
Two senior Ministry of Interior officials declined to comment.
At a press conference Tuesday, Sam Rainsy said he doesn’t believe the police version.
“I think the ruling party is using all means to pressure the activists of the Sam Rainsy Party.”
He later added: “We’re used to having fabricated evidence in Cambodia.”
Ly Rosamy was only Rainsy’s No 8 candidate in Phnom Penh, where 12 seats are at stake. But Sam Rainsy said she would be elected in a free and fair election.
In an incident the Sam Rainsy Party said might be related, three men went to the house of Sreng Sreang, deputy chief of the Interior’s penal department, on Monday night and allegedly threatened him with AK-47s.
Sreng Sreang is an associate of General Sin Sen, who recently switched support from the CPP to the Sam Rainsy Party.
Sreng Sreang’s wife on Tuesday confirmed the incident and said she recognized the men as former penal policemen. She said they appeared drunk and left after her husband refused to respond to their threats.
On Tuesday, Ly Rosamy recounted Monday’s events. She said she and her husband were stopped by municipal police and a Flying Tiger motorcade while driving home at 9 pm Monday in Chroy Changvar commune. The Flying Tigers are a controversial elite crime-fighting squad created by the Ministry of Interior.
Ly Rosamy said her husband was handcuffed and pushed roughly into the police car. She said police didn’t respond when she asked for an explanation of the arrest and for a warrant.
The two were taken to separate rooms in the municipal police headquarters, she said. The police, she said, first accused her of carrying a pistol, but dropped that accusation after she let them look through her bag.
Ly Rosamy said she was released at about 11 pm, after repeated requests to be allowed to go home to her family. Before being released, she was told her husband was being accused of murder, and she said she feared they would try to force a false confession out of him.
Ly Rosamy said it wasn’t the first time she had been harassed. She said that she believes she has been followed by district officials, and that a driver of a car intentionally hit her motorbike on June 20, wounding her leg.
(Additional reporting by Khuy Sokhoeun)