Report on Violent Poipet Protest Sent to Court

Banteay Meanchey authorities on Tuesday sent a report to the provincial court on a violent protest in Poipet City, which saw military police fire bullets over the heads of angry cart-pullers who stormed the customs office in late May.

Kosoun Saroeuth, Banteay Meanchey provincial governor, said that his deputy Chong Phet led a meeting with customs officials, military police and provincial police Tuesday before sending a final report on the protest to the court.

“We held a meeting of our investigative group to make a clear report before sending it to the court in order to avoid accusing them [the protesters] without evidence,” he said. “We sent a report to the court today, and only the court can decide what is right and what is wrong—they are the judiciary.”

About 100 cart-pullers were protesting arbitrary fees they are charged by customs officials when they transported goods into Cambodia from Thailand for businessmen.

After military police beat them to break up a roadblock, false rumors spread that one worker had died before dozens of others stormed the customs office in retaliation, throwing rocks over its gate before breaking it down.

A preliminary report by Poipet City governor Ngor Mengchruon placed the blame on a local CNRP official for inciting the workers. No suspects were identified during Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Saroeuth said.

Thong Sokhamphou, provincial customs chief, said that the investigation revealed extensive damage to the customs office.

“We collected damage reports… and estimated the damage cost is $13,000,” he said.

Or Borin, provincial military police commander, said that it would be the court’s responsibility to identify who would be held accountable for the damages.

Prosecutor Phan Vannaroth said that he was going to review the documents on the issue and take action “according to the law.”

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