US Group Wants Charges Against Activists Dropped

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged the government to drop its insurrection case against a group of opposition activists who are set to go on trial Thursday for their alleged roles in a protest against the closure of Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park that turned violent.

The activists have been charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with alternately leading or participating in an insurrection, following a July 15 demonstration at Freedom Park during which at least two Daun Penh district security guards were severely beaten.

In its statement, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine calls the insurrection charges baseless and “a breathtakingly cynical act of political vindictiveness against the already besieged Cambodian opposition.”

The U.S.-based rights group suggests, rather, that the guards were under orders to provoke a violent response from the demonstrators as an excuse to make arrests.

“Cambodia’s foreign donors should tell the government that its manipulation of the security forces and the judiciary to undermine the opposition is as unacceptable as it is transparent,” it says.

Human Rights Watch puts the number of activists to go on trial Thursday at 11, but deputy prosecutor Keo Socheat, who is handling the case, declined to provide an exact figure.

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