Opposition demonstrators led two marches on Monday, and a top police official said he has proposed additional methods the government could implement to help police break up “anarchic protests.”
Monday marked the eighth successive day of violence between pro-opposition protesters and police, who have sporadically beaten demonstrators, though only two deaths have been confirmed. Police beat at least one man senseless when they intercepted a march late morning.
The elite police motorcycle unit Flying Tigers and about 12 trucks of riot and military police intercepted the march on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, just south of the traffic circle at Monireth Boulevard.
Just after 3 pm, a lone policeman walked into a crowd of about 200 in front of the US Embassy and fired 30 or 40 AK-47 rounds just above people’s heads or near their feet as they fled.
He then leveled the weapon at bystanders and journalists and shouted angrily at them. When journalists ducking on the sidewalk laid their cameras aside, he pulled the rifle away, fired more rounds in the air above journalists and bystanders’ heads and left.
At around 5 pm, police rode into and broke up hundreds of marchers at Street 130 and Norodom Boulevard, detaining two boys, one of whom appeared to be in possession of a slingshot and marbles. Throughout, many people came out on their balconies and rooftop to applaud the demonstrators and cheer the procession.
Neth Savoeurn, municipal police chief, said the security situation in the capital has improved since early last week when police broke up the sit-in demonstration across the street from the National Assembly.
But to establish control over the crowds, additional methods would be needed he said. He declined to reveal what he had suggested to the government.
Police armed with electric batons are having trouble controlling the thousands of demonstrators, some of whom throw rocks and other objects at them, he said. Demonstrators on Monday injured about 20 police with rocks and acid, he said.
Police arrested more than 20 people while breaking up thousands. They reacted angrily while dispersing the demonstration at about 10 am when a bag of marbles and a slingshot were found on the ground.
Police snatched a nearby man off his motorbike and beat him until he cowered on the ground, bleeding heavily. A UN vehicle with police escort took the man to a hospital after the two groups argued over custody of the man.
Monday’s demonstrations appeared to be much smaller than one on Sunday evening, which reached about 8,000 people.
Witnesses said the procession ended abruptly when police fired assault rifles above protesters’ heads. At least one person was hit in the leg.
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith and Agence France-Presse)