Ten supporters of defiant Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua were injured Monday when security forces beat them for coming to her side as she was forced out of a popular public demonstration site in Phnom Penh whose closure she was protesting.
The scuffle broke out as Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua was making her fifth attempt in recent weeks to hold a one-woman protest in Freedom Park against a ban on public gatherings at the site.
When guards came to remove Mu Sochua, she lay down on the ground and hung on to their uniforms until they hauled her outside the park, where a group of some 50 supporters were gathered.
In the ensuing clash, the Daun Penh district security guards beat supporters with batons until some bled and others fell to the ground, as city police stood by, activists said.
"They accused me of breaching the law,” Mu Sochua told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“I responded to them, ‘If I have breached the law, then please arrest me. Which law is it that I have breached?’" she said.
At least 10 people were injured in the clash, eight of whom were treated by medics from local rights group Licadho, the group’s senior investigator Am Sm Ath said.
Lim Kimya, another CNRP lawmaker-elect, was hit in the face and some local and foreign journalists were also attacked.
"I’m disappointed that there were so many police officers there and yet when violence broke out they didn't try to stop it,” Am Sam Ath said.
“The security guards caused the violence but police just stood by.”
“Police didn't arrest any suspects for prosecution,” he said.
Until a violent crackdown in January, the park had been a rallying point for CNRP-led mass anti-government protests following flawed elections in July last year.
The CNRP supporters had gathered there to call for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resignation and a reelection following disputed July 28 polls that saw his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) declared the victor by the country’s government-appointed electoral body.
The last round of mass protests in the park was violently dispersed on January 4, a day after police shot five people dead in a brutal crackdown on garment workers protesting for higher wages.
Shortly afterward Hun Sen issued a ban on public protests, which he rescinded while warning that any opposition demonstrations could be met with simultaneous pro-CPP rallies.
Since then have told the CNRP, which has boycotted parliament over the polls, that Freedom Park is off-limits for gatherings while they investigate violence linked to the crackdown.
Mu Sochua’s campaign has said her attempts to enter the park are aimed at “demanding the people’s rights back” as she stages solo protests to highlight arbitrary enforcement of the continuing ban.
She has said she has launched the campaign as a “citizen of Cambodia” and not in affiliation with any political party, though the CNRP has supported her individual efforts.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.