Cambodia Will Not Investigate Protest Shooting Death, Government Spokesman Says

cambodia-monks-oct2013.gif Monks bless villagers ahead of their planned march to a Phnom Penh court to demand justice for Mao Sok Chan, Oct. 18, 2013.

Cambodian authorities will not pursue inquiries into the shooting death of a man killed during anti-government protests two years ago, a government spokesman said today as a Cambodian rights group slammed the Southeast Asian nation’s “dangerous path” away from democracy.

The victim, Mao Sok Chan, was killed by a single shot to the head on Sept. 15, 2013 on a bridge in the capital Phnom Penh that had been blocked off by police during massive protests following a disputed national election in July.

Despite a pledge by the Ministry of Interior to investigate the death, widely believed to have been caused by security forces, no one has been charged or convicted over the killing, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) said on Tuesday.

“His killer remain[s] unidentified and was never brought to justice,” CCHR said in a Sept. 15 statement.

“Cambodia is walking on a dangerous path that will bring this country far from democracy and toward ruthless development where human rights have no place,” CCHR said.

Rights groups have long highlighted a culture of impunity in Cambodia, saying a number of killings, including those of journalists and rights campaigners, have not been thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators not brought to justice.

Protesters 'equally to blame'

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday, Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said that Mao Sok Chan’s case should now be “buried,” adding that the disruptive protests challenging election results had caused the conditions leading to his death.

“I think that if we investigate this case, we will find there was not just one killer,” Khieu Sopheak said, adding that the opposition-led protests were aimed at toppling Cambodia’s government and had to be forcibly suppressed.

“We would have to look not just at the person pulling the trigger, but at all of those behind the protests themselves,” he said.

“The whole country would have to be put in jail,” he said. “There would be total chaos.”

No murder case should ever be closed before a full investigation is made that leads to a result, though, said Sok Sam Ouen, chief attorney for  the Cambodia-based Amrin Law and Consultants Group.

“I think it is wrong to abandon this case, as this will only promote impunity,” he said.

“This is not a country ruled by law.”

Reported by Morm Moniroth. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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