Sticks and stones

October 28, 2015

Dearly as I love this wonderful little country, sometimes it’s just completely fucked up. On Monday, two opposition MPs were beaten unconscious outside the National Assembly building in central Phnom Penh by thugs employed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

A large crowd of idiots had gathered outside the National Assembly to protest the very existence of opposition MP Kem Sokha, for ‘inciting hatred between the government and opposition.’

“Kem Sokha is a political provocateur and he creates a culture of discrimination encouraging Cambodians to hate each other; he is a terrible person who has to be toppled from his position,” a protester, who identified himself as a CPP supporter, told a local newspaper.

The ruling CPP denied any involvement in organising the demonstration, despite CPP politicians being in the crowd, and Prime Minister Hun Sen warning the previous day that such a protest would take place.

After most of the protestors had departed, opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were dragged from their cars while leaving the Assembly and badly beaten.

From his hospital bed, where he was nursing a double arm fracture, a broken nose, chipped front teeth and horrific facial swelling, Kong yesterday spoke of his horror as “at least 10” heavy-set men attacked his vehicle as he attempted to leave the National Assembly. “They broke my car windows and dragged me out. I lost consciousness for a little bit,” he said. “I don’t think they were civilian; they were strong men, police or military or something, they were strong.”

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Photos on the internet showed both politicians bleeding heavily from their faces, as well as the severe damage caused to their vehicles, caused by protesters wielding metal bars.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement: “Using a mob to attack opposition members of parliament sends a chilling signal to Cambodians that a new wave of political violence can be unleashed anytime and anywhere.”

CPP officials have denied the beatings were sanctioned by them, despite claims that police posted outside the Assembly watched as they were carried out.

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When asked why there were so few police in the area and the ones who were there did nothing except watch, the local commune police chief said officers had been relieved of their duties because the protesters had mostly left the scene. “[the protesters] dispersed and returned home, so our forces went for lunch,” he said.

The police also managed not to turn up at all during a six-hour-long attack on Kem Sokha’s house that afternoon, where a crowd threw stones, breaking many windows. Kem’s wife was inside during the attack.

Meanwhile, pro-government media outlets have published photographs of Cambodian soldiers along the Thai-Cambodian border rallying with signs saying “Kem Sokha is an inciter” and “Kem Sokha is a bad person who creates never-ending problems.”

The director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the campaign violated both the Constitution and prohibitions on partisanship in laws governing the armed forces.

Sometimes this country terrifies me.

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