Police officials in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday said they were still searching for suspects who allegedly distributed two dozen leaflets on Friday accusing the government of deliberately causing the stampede that killed hundreds of people in Phnom Penh last week.
“Now we are investigating this case,” said provincial police chief Hun Hean, who declined to say exactly how many people authorities suspected of distributing the fliers found scattered around Serei Saophoan City.
Ouk Keorattanak, deputy Cabinet chief and spokesman for the provincial governor’s office, said authorities suspected a Buddhist monk who arrived in town Thursday of handing the leaflets to a local mentally disabled man to distribute. He said police questioned and immediately released the man, but declined to give any more details about either the monk or a second suspect in the case.
Mr Keorattanak said he could not recall the exact phrasing of the leaflets but compared them to Khmer Rouge propaganda because they accused the government of being a puppet of Vietnam.
He also said the leaflets bolstered the cause of one of the country’s opposition parties which he declined to name.
“The intention of throwing these leaflets out is to take action against the government,” he said. “It is serving an opposition party.”
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, spokesman for the country’s largest opposition party, denied any SRP involvement in the leaflets.
Along with other opposition parties and several human rights groups, the SRP has criticized the government’s investigation into last week’s tragedy for not including any independent voices. According to the government’s latest count, 351 people either were trampled to death or suffocated when thousands packed a bridge leading to Koh Pich island.
“We have spoken in public, especially via the media, urging the government to form an independent committee to investigate the case,” Mr Sovann said.
Kong Hemringsey, the fourth-highest ranking monk in the Mohanikaya sect, also denied any knowledge of the leaflets.
“The monk’s duty is to help those who are suffering,” he said.