Tuk-Tuk Group Says Licadho Edited Bus Driver Attack Video

An association of tuk-tuk drivers on Wednesday hit back at criticism of its members for violently attacking a group protesting Capitol Tours bus drivers in Phnom Penh on Satur­day, claiming a rights group re­leased footage of the attack that failed to tell the whole story.

The attack occurred when a group of 40 fired bus drivers and a handful of supporters—who have been protesting for months—gathered outside the company’s headquarters in Prampi Makara district to demand their jobs back, claiming that they were illegally dismissed for attempting to unionize.

When the drivers attempted to block a bus from leaving the area, a similar number of tuk-tuk driv­ers in matching black helmets—all members of the Cambodia for Confederation Development As­sociation (CCDA)—attacked them with wooden poles, metal bars and hammers, according to rights group Licadho.

A video released by the group appears to confirm this account.

During a press conference at a restaurant across the street from the company’s headquarters, how­ever, CCDA president E So­phors said Licadho used only clips that supported its narrative that the tuk-tuk drivers started the fight.

“They only took photos and video after the violence had started,” Mr. Sophors said. “I expect that in the future, people will see that NGOs do not stand for hu­man rights; they are businesses that only show donors one side violating the law.”

Mr. Sophors said his members had permission to park outside the Capitol Tours depot and re­lied on the company’s customers for business. He said that while his members were the first to use violence on Saturday, the bus drivers had pushed them too far in recent months.

Their attempt to block the bus, Mr. Sophors said, was beyond the pale.

“Those drivers created the violence by blocking the bus—how could violence not occur after that?” he said. “If protesters ask passengers to stop using the bus­es…where will my members earn the money from?”

Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator for rights group Licadho, denied that his NGO had used selective footage, adding that the video was not released with the in­­tention of placing blame on eith­er side.

“The footage and video we have is an accurate representation of what happened on Sat­ur­day,” he said.

In a decision that has been blasted by prominent labor leaders, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday charged six people over the protest, including Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) and Kong Athit, the confederation’s secretary-general, who say they were not even pres­ent during the demonstration.

Also charged were Eang Kim­hun, secretary-general of Cambo­dia Transportation Work­ers Fed­er­ation (CTWF), Sok Chhun Oeung, president of the Cambodian In­formal Eco­nomic Workers As­so­ciation, fired bus driver Nan Vanna and labor activist Ros Siphay. Mr. Vanna and Mr. Siphay were arrested immediately after the violence and have since been sent to prison to await trial. The others remain free.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sophors ex­plained that the CCDA had filed a police complaint against the four labor leaders, also naming Nin Kosal, vice president of the CTWF, as one of the instigators of the protest.

“It was led by the CLC. We are not going to blame the bus drivers,” he said.

Contacted by telephone, commune police chief Pat Samnath—who has said that his officers made no attempt to intervene on Sat­ur­day because they were scared of getting hurt—also blamed the protesters for the violence.

“The drivers blocked the road, so the tuk-tuk drivers tried to make them move. This is the main reason for the violence,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Mr. Kimhun said the CTWF—an affiliate group under the CLC—was planning to file its own complaint against Mr. Sophors and CCDA vice president Suth Menghy. He said he was not worried about the tuk-tuk association’s complaint.

“They can file a complaint against us if they,” Mr. Kimhun said. “Don’t forget to bring evidence. Our victims were injured and people saw that, and the NGO video shows that we did not start the fight.”

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