Weekend attacks in Cambodia’s capital target two more opposition party members

One activist was assaulted by men with metal batons; another was rammed into by a car while driving.
By RFA Khmer
Weekend attacks in Cambodia’s capital target two more opposition party members Thun Chantha, who has worked for the Candlelight Party for several years, is seen in a hospital after being attacked Sunday by assailants who struck him several times with a metal baton.
Credit: Citizen journalist

Two more opposition party activists were assaulted over the weekend as they traveled in Phnom Penh – the latest in a series of similar attacks in recent months that members of the Candlelight Party insist are all politically motivated.

Thun Chantha, who has worked for the main opposition party for several years, was attacked during the day on Sunday by four assailants who surrounded him on their motorbikes, struck him several times with a metal baton and left him with bruises all over his body.

“They followed me along the road and crashed into my motorbike,” he said. “Then they pounced on me.” 

Another Candlelight Party activist, Thy Sokha, said her car was intentionally rammed into on Saturday night by an unknown assailant who drove a black 470-series Lexus.

Thy Sokha is widely known as “Peypeyly” on social media. She and her husband weren’t seriously injured, but the front right part of her car was completely damaged. The assailant wore a bodyguard uniform and ran toward a waiting car, she said. 

“If I was not lucky enough, I would not have a chance to do this livestream about this incident so that our people may know the truth. I am really horrified by this threat against my life,” she said just after the incident. 

‘Every repressive tool’

The Candlelight Party is expected to be the top competitor to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in the July parliamentary elections. 

The CPP is stepping up its pressure on political opposition members in advance of the election, just as Prime Minister Hun Sen warned would happen during a speech in Kampong Cham province earlier this year, Human Rights Watch noted. 

“You have two options, first we could use the court,” Hun Sen said on Jan. 9. “Secondly, we can go to hit you at your home because you don’t listen. Which option do you prefer? The second? Don’t be rude.” 

Candlelight Party activist Thy Sokha, known as “Peypeyly” on social media, talks on a Facebook livestream on Saturday after her car was intentionally rammed by an unknown assailant. Credit: RFA screenshot from Facebook

There have been seven reported acts of violence that have targeted six opposition party members in recent months – not including the two attacks over the weekend, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Monday. 

Attacks on four of the six activists had multiple similarities, the New York-based organization said.

“All four attacks were carried out by two men in dark clothes with dark motorcycle helmets riding a single motorbike, with the driver remaining on the bike while the passenger assaulted the victim,” the organization said. 

“In three attacks, the assailants used an extendable metal baton as a weapon. In two attacks, the victims could hear the attackers confirming the victims’ identity moments before they were assaulted. No money or valuables were stolen.”

All of the activists interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they believe they were targeted because of their work with the Candlelight Party, the organization said.

Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said Hun Sen is using “every repressive tool at his disposal” to rid the country of political opposition, including prison sentences on politically motivated charges.

“Foreign governments should send a clear public message that dismantling opposition parties and disqualifying, assaulting, and arresting their members before election day means that there won’t be any real election at all,” he said in the statement. 

‘Failure’ to bring justice

Katta Orn of the government-backed Human Rights Committee said the Human Rights Watch statement was politically targeted at the government. 

“It is customary for Human Rights Watch to state something baseless, without proper observations, data or information,” he told Radio Free Asia. “They disseminate the issues to the international community with an aim to put pressure on the royal government.” 

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, CPP spokesman Sok Ey San and National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

Soeung Senkarona, spokesperson for the Cambodian rights group ADHOC, voiced concerns over the Cambodian government’s repeated failure to bring any perpetrators to justice in the attacks. 

“I am concerned that such failure by the Cambodian government to comply with its international obligations may bring further pressure from the international community,” he said.

Translated by Keo Sovannarith. Edited by Matt Reed.


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