Updated at 04:30 p.m. EST on 11-04-2015
Three suspects in a mob attack last week on two Cambodian opposition parliamentarians were questioned all day and placed in temporary detention Wednesday, a day after they surrendered themselves to authorities in the capital Phnom Penh, government sources said.
The three men—Cay Sarith, 33, Mao Hoeun, 34, and Suth Vanny, 45—whose images were captured on video apparently leading the assault, turned themselves in shortly before 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 3, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told RFA’s Khmer Service by phone.
“[The] three perpetrators of the attack on the two lawmakers came to present themselves to the Investigation Committee of the Ministry of the Interior,” Khieu Sopheak said. “They have now been detained by the committee, and we are preparing documents to send them to court.”
Speaking on Wednesday to Cambodian media, Khieu Sopheak dismissed suggestions that other, more powerful political figures may have ordered and directed the attack.
“[The suspects] were led [only] by themselves,” he told The Cambodia Daily on Nov. 4.
“They came to report themselves to the authorities and the next step is they will receive their punishment according to the law,” he said.
The three men were remanded to Prey Sar Prison for temporary detention after undergoing a full day of questioning by Meas Chan Piseth, prosecutor of the Phnom Penh municipal court, local media said.
Local news quoted Meas Chan Piseth as saying the three men faced the criminal charges of “intentional violence" and “intentional damaging of property."
In a brutal assault on Oct. 26, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers Nhay Chamreoun and Kong Sophea were dragged from their vehicles and assaulted by protesters after the two men attended a morning meeting of the legislature at the National Assembly building.
The attack occurred as more than 1,000 supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) surrounded the parliament building, calling for CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha to step down as first vice president of the National Assembly.
Kem Sokha was ousted from his position by lawmakers late last week.
The CPP has been accused of orchestrating the assault—a charge it has denied—and Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly called on authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
But in a statement issued Oct. 30, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) described the assault as “organized” and noted that reports suggest police and other state security forces looked on while it took place.
Further investigation sought
Speaking from a hospital in Bangkok where he is recovering from injuries sustained in the assault, Nhay Chamreoun thanked the suspects for coming forward, but called for further investigation into the attack.
“We admire them for their bravery in confessing, but I still want to know who was behind [the assault],” he said.
“I don’t believe that [those suspects] would have come out to beat us on their own, because we had never had any conflicts between us,” he said, adding that the attackers had nearly killed them in the assault.
“I have no doubt that there were masterminds behind the attack. I want to know who was behind this, and I want them prosecuted under the law,” he said.
In fact, the timing of Tuesday’s surrender and arrests suggests that those now in custody were encouraged by authorities to come forward on their own, Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said.
“The Committee had announced on several occasions that it was difficult to conduct its investigation, and asked for the public to help by providing them with evidence,” he said.
“Now we see that suspects have come forward to confess, and that they were never all that far away.”
“Therefore, we can understand that it ‘was time’ for the suspects to confess,” he said.
Reported by Sarada Taing for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Richard Finney.