Police Arrest Two More Opposition Officials

Eight opposition officials, including seven lawmakers-elect, have now been arrested on charges of insurrection and incitement over the violent street brawl that broke out at a CNRP protest on Tuesday, with police on Thursday apprehending Long Ry and Nuth Rumduol.

CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha was also summoned to appear before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court next Friday. 

Opposition supporters protest on Thursday outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where six CNRP officials were questioned and charged on Wednesday with insurrection and inciting a felony under aggravated circumstances. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Opposition supporters protest on Thursday outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where six CNRP officials were questioned and charged on Wednesday with insurrection and inciting a felony under aggravated circumstances. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Police surrounded the Pur Senchey district home of Mr. Ry just before 4 p.m., according to the lawmaker-elect’s wife, before entering and arresting both him and Mr. Rumduol and taking them to the municipal police headquarters.

“We have arrested two, following the court’s orders. Now they are in the hands of the police,” National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith confirmed by telephone at 7 p.m.

Both Mr. Ry, the CNRP’s security chief, and Mr. Rumduol, a lawmaker-elect, had been present at the protest on Tuesday morning and were named by the municipal court as being among at least eight opposition officials charged with “leading an insurrection” and “incitement to commit a felony.”

The other six, including CNRP public affairs chief Mu Sochua, were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday and sent to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison after the charges were laid on Wednesday afternoon.

Keo Phirum and Men Sothavrin were arrested with Ms. Sochua at the protest and sent to municipal police headquarters, while Ho Vann was arrested after he led a convoy to the headquarters.

Real Camerin was then apprehended in a car in Battambang province at 2 a.m. on Wednesday and Oeur Narith, an assistant to Ms. Sochua, was arrested later that morning.

Another CNRP activist, Khin Chumroeun, has also been charged but has not yet been arrested.

Judge Mony on Tuesday handed down the charges of insurrection and incitement against the eight CNRP officials. The group faces upward of 30 years in prison each if found guilty.

Thursday morning, the municipal court also issued a letter to Mr. Sokha, who with party President Sam Rainsy out of the country was the CNRP’s acting president when the protest occurred, to appear before Investigating Judge Keo Mony next Friday for questioning.

“His Excellency [Kem Sokha] will be going to the court if he’s not busy,” said opposition spokesman Yem Ponhearith.

In a statement issued on CNRP letterhead, Mr. Sokha called on all of the opposition lawmakers-elect outside of Cambodia to return to the country immediately.

Mr. Ponhearith explained that at least eight of the party’s 55 lawmakers-elect were presently in either France or the U.S.

Mr. Rainsy, who is himself not a lawmaker-elect, having been barred from running for election, said by phone on Wednesday that he was on “an island in the middle of nowhere” in France but was preparing to return after the charges were levied.

“He will return to Cambodia on [July 19] at 9 a.m.,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Thursday of Mr. Rainsy.

The arrests of Mr. Rumduol, a former senator, and Mr. Ry, a former personal bodyguard for Mr. Rainsy, means that all lawmakers-elect charged by the court have been arrested.

At least three other lawmakers-elect—Cheam Channy, Sok Oumsea and Long Botta—were present at the protest but have not been detained or charged.

The protest on Tuesday was part of a campaign by Ms. Sochua to open Freedom Park, a concrete plaza in Phnom Penh that the government built in 2010 as a designated protest zone.

Authorities evicted opposition protesters from the park on January 4 as part of a lethal wave of repression against growing garment worker strikes and anti-government protests aimed at securing the resignation of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

It has since been guarded by razor wire, riot police and the notoriously violent Daun Penh district security guards, who have viciously beaten protesters and journalists who have refused to heed orders against gathering in the vicinity of the park.

On Tuesday, the protesters for the first time fought back against the security guards. The usually aggressive guards attempted to scatter but many were thrown to the ground and repeatedly beaten. At least two were sent to the intensive care unit and a total of 37 were injured.

Adhoc, a local rights group that deployed several monitors to the protest, questioned the charges of leading an insurrection and incitement laid against the CNRP officials.

“Adhoc in no way condones the violent actions of the CNRP supporters who brutally beat the Daun Penh public order guards on Tuesday,” says the statement, released Thursday.

“However, Adhoc monitors at the scene heard the CNRP lawmakers-elect calling for calm and telling supporters to be peaceful. They did not incite or in any way instigate the violence.”

An image circulating on social media also showed Mr. Phirum, one of the arrested lawmakers, bear-hugging one of the heavily beaten district guards in an apparent act of protection.

Meng Sopheary, the lawyer representing Ms. Sochua, a U.S. citizen, also confirmed Thursday that no officials from the U.S. Embassy had yet visited her client in Prey Sar prison.

“From the day of her arrest up until today, no [embassy] officials have come to see her yet,” Ms. Sopheary said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman John Simmons indicated that officials at the embassy were trying to visit Ms. Sochua in prison.

“The U.S. Embassy is attempting to provide the consular services to Mu Sochua that she is entitled to receive as an American citizen,” Mr. Simmons said via email.

A spokesperson for the French Embassy confirmed they had also not visited Mr. Sothavrin, a French national. Simon Fellows, a spokesman for the Australian Embassy, declined to comment on whether Mr. Camerin, who is an Australian national, had been visited.

Under article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which Cambodia acceded in 2006, governments have the obligation to allow consular officials to visit nationals of their country who have been placed “in prison, custody or detention.”

(Additional reporting by Mech Dara, Alex Willemyns and Colin Meyn)

naren@cambodiadaily.com

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly cited the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as guaranteeing consular officials the right to visit imprisoned nationals. 

© 2014, All rights reserved.