Cambodian riot police’s tactics in spotlight
A deputy police chief being sued for his alleged role in a pregnant woman being kicked in the stomach outside the appeal trial of the Boeung Kak 13 in June said yesterday he did not know what compensation the woman, who miscarried, wanted.
“Is the victim old or young, and does she sue me to return her kid?” Phnom Penh municipal deputy police chief Phoung Malay said. “I want to tell her that if she wants to get back her kid, I am also young,” he said.
Bov Srey Sras, 25, from Boeung Kak’s village 21, said she was suing Malay, Daun Penh deputy governor Sok Penhvuth and an officer who kicked her, claiming they are all responsible for inflicting “intentional violence”.
“I am suing them for my own justice and for the justice of my two-month-old unborn baby who was killed by police,” said Srey Sras, the sister of Bov Sophea, one of the 13 women on trial.
Police armed with shields and batons clashed with supporters of the Boeung Kak 13 on Sisowath Quay on June 27 as they tried to march toward the Court of Appeal to attend the women’s trial.
Srey Sras, who was caught up in the violence, was taken to the National Maternal and Child Health Centre after losing consciousness and later lost her unborn baby.
Sophea, who was released from Prey Sar prison the night of the clash after spending a month and three days in jail, said yesterday that she wanted justice for her sister.
“The justice and independence of the court will be tested in the case of my sister,” she said.
The June 27 clash is among a number of incidents in which police have been accused of violence against protesters since Borei Keila residents were evicted from their homes on January 3.
Municipal police chief Touch Naroth said yesterday he had raised with his officers the issue of not using violence when dealing with demonstrators.
“I always educate the police to be patient and flexible with demonstrators who are protesting and for them to avoid using violence,” he said. “We must turn these crackdowns into things that are peaceful.”
Some of the forces Naroth referred to were busy in Phnom Penh yesterday demonstrating nonviolent tactics they had been learning since June 13.
Naroth ordered them not to fire on protesters or commit violent acts against them in the future and said they were “waiters for the people” who should be considered friends rather than enemies.
“I would like to emphasise that the main objective of this training for our national police forces was not to crack down on people, protesters or demonstrators,” he said.
“It was to protect or prevent [people] from having strikes or demonstrations or other illegal activities in order to guarantee public order, safety and security for people in the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
Nevertheless, in cases where protesters used violence or took up weapons against police, force remained a last resort, he said.
The police also demonstrated their counter-terrorism strategies as part of yesterday’s display at the Phnom Penh police commissariat, advancing in tight formations while training their AK-47s on imaginary targets.
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of rights group Licadho, said she appreciated Touch Naruth’s orders, saying that past instances of police resorting to violence against protesters and demonstrators could not be repeated.
“I support and appreciate these orders. I hope that if the police really implement General Touch Naroth’s orders, there will be no more violent acts against protesters or demonstrators in our country,” she said.
Srey Sras said Prak Savuth, president of clerks at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, had accepted her complaint.
“He told me he will send this complaint to his superior,” she said.
Sok Penhvuth could not be reached for comment yesterday.
By Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Buth Reaksmey Kongkea
The Phnom Penh Post
01 August 2012
Riot police take part in a graduation ceremony yesterday in Phnom Penh. Among other things the graduates were taught how to deal with crowds during protests. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post