Cambodian Opposition Activist, Party Family Member Beaten by Assailants in Separate Attacks

2020-12-14
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Cambodian Opposition Activist, Party Family Member Beaten by Assailants in Separate Attacks Cambodian beating victims Keo Sok Serey (L) and Choeun Sarim (R) are shown in photos taken after they were attacked.
Photos provided by family, friends

A Cambodian political activist and the son of an opposition party official were ambushed and seriously injured in separate attacks on Saturday, in the latest of a string of assaults on opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling party, Cambodian sources said.

Choeun Sarim, a former elected councilor in Phnom Penh for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was attacked at about 6:00 p.m. by two men riding motobike who struck him in the head while he was transporting guests on a tuk-tuk, or motorized tricycle, in the capital Phnom Penh.

One motorbike pulled over to his right in traffic, and a passenger on the bike picked up a rock and threw it at him, Choeun Sarim said, adding, “I started to run for my life, but then another motorbike carrying two people stopped me, and one of them hit me with a square wooden stick.”

The attackers then fled without robbing him of his money or his phone, Choeun Samrim said.

Calls seeking comment on the incident from Chhay Kim Khoeun, spokesperson for Cambodia’s National Police, rang unanswered on Sunday.

In a separate incident, Keo Sok Serey, the 16-year-old son of jailed CNRP party leader for Kampong Chhnang province Keo Thai, was attacked late on Dec. 12 while cycling on the road, the young man’s mother Sam Chenda said.

Keo Sok Serey was also struck with a stick and pursued, but managed to escape when he called out to local villagers for help and his attackers fled the scene, Sam Chenda said, adding that her son was left badly injured in the assault.

“My son was injured in several places, including the right side of his head and his eye, cheek, and knees. He tripped over while running. It was like running for his life from a war zone,” she said.

Sam Chenda said that she will now send her son, now in hospital in Kampong Chhnang, for treatment in Phnom Penh due to the seriousness of his injuries, especially to his head.

“Our life is so much harder now,” she said. “My husband Keo Thai is locked up behind bars, and now my son has been badly beaten. We have been so burdened and frustrated by all this persecution and lack of financial support since my husband was imprisoned.”

Calls seeking comment from Boribo District Police Inspector Cheang Sovannarith in Kampong Chhnang rang unanswered on Monday, but Sam Chenda said that local authorities had gone to the scene of the incident shortly after her son was attacked and had questioned witnesses, though she has not yet been informed of their findings or updates on the case.

'Not good for the government's image'

Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian human rights group Adhoc, called the attack on Keo Sok Serey the first reported case of its kind in Kampong Chhnang. His organization has not yet received a request for help from the victims or their families, he said, but the group will monitor progress on the case if they are asked.

“When members of the opposition [CNRP] party are persecuted, and there is no justice for them, this isn’t good for the government’s image in the eyes of the national and international communities,” he said.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November 2017, two months after the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha for his role in an alleged scheme to topple the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The ban, along with a wider crackdown on NGO’s and the independent media, paved the way for Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in the country’s 2018 general election.

Around 20 CNRP activists and officials have been physically assaulted since early 2020, mostly by motorbike-riding attackers targeting their heads. Assailants have used batons and bricks, and also their own vehicles, against victims.

None of the perpetrators have been arrested.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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