The Sam Rainsy Party denied reports yesterday that its members violently clashed with police and injured more than a dozen officers in Svay Rieng province on Monday as it led a delegation of lawmakers to a contentious border demarcation zone with Vietnam.
The opposition party said it did not fight or throw objects at the police armed with riot shields and helmets and rejected remarks by the provincial police chief that the delegation of parliamentarians physically harmed 15 officers in Chantrea district’s Samraong commune.
Instead, the SRP accused the intervention unit police officers of impeding their fact-finding mission by attempting to block them from reaching the area, where Cambodian farmers claim they have lost land due to the demarcation process.
“The Sam Rainsy Party would like to absolutely deny the dissemination of this information,” the party wrote in a statement.
“The information is not true and twists the truth in order to defame the Sam Rainsy Party, who always struggles for freedom, justice and democracy in Cambodia by upholding the principles of nonviolence.”
Quoted by the pro-government Deum Ampil newspaper yesterday, Svay Rieng police chief Prach Rim said officers suffered both serious and minor injuries as a result of the confrontation.
“They pushed us and hurled stones at us, leading our police to be injured,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Contacted by telephone yesterday, Mr Rim answered the call but remained silent after a reporter identified himself and asked for comment on his earlier statements to the Deum Ampil. Deputy provincial police chief Vann Sophanna declined to comment.
The delegation on Monday was visiting the site that party president Sam Rainsy visited on Oct 25 where he criticized both Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities for demarcation efforts along the boundary.
Mr Rainsy is currently facing criminal charges for alleged incitement and damaging property as a result of his visit during which six wooden sticks marking the temporary boundary post were removed from the ground.
SRP lawmaker and spokesman Yim Sovann said he first heard of the allegations of violence on the radio as the delegation was driving back to Phnom Penh. He said the delegation—comprising lawmakers, NGOs, journalists and local villagers—only verbally argued with police when they did not allow the group to visit the demarcation post.
“The police followed us into the field,” he said, adding that many of the officers sported helmets, batons and riot shields. “I saw by my own eyes there was no violence,” Mr Sovann said.
Mr Rainsy, who remains abroad, said the situation in Chantrea “exposed further evidence of countless Cambodian farmers having lost their rice fields because of real border encroachments.”