Philip Ruddock, who served as Australia’s immigration minister between 1996 and 2003 and now serves as the government’s chief parliamentary whip, has described Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government as a “one-party state,” and said that Australia is concerned about the shooting deaths of five strike protesters in January.
A spokesman for the military police said Monday that there would be no investigation into the killing of five stone-throwing protesters and the wounding of more than 20 on Friday in Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Street, and that the military police had behaved “ethically” when they opened fire.
Brigadier General Kheng Tito said military police—who were witnessed firing AK-47 assault rifles and killing and wounding protesters on official orders—were “very ethical.”
Brig. Gen. Tito also claimed that it was unclear who had shot the five protesters.
“We never shoot at a target to take a life,” he claimed, adding that although the military police were armed, they did not aim at, or shoot to kill.
“So, we don’t know who killed them,” he claimed.
Both the police and military police have issued similarly incredulous denials of killing protesters in the past.
When a woman bystander was shot dead by police gunfire in the Stung Meanchey area during a clash with stone-throwing protesters in November, the police denied their bullets were responsible. And, near the Monivong Bridge in September, the police and military police also denied their bullets killed another bystander during a stone-throwing incident.
Neither of those killings have been investigated, and Brig. Gen. Tito said that the military police officers who opened fire on Friday would not be investigated for the five deaths and more than 20 injured on Veng Sreng Street.
Protesters, however, who threw rocks at military police, would be investigated, he said.
“An investigation will be made just to find the persons who caused violence and to find the inciters,” he said. “If an investigation is needed, it will be for finding the ringleaders.”
Brig. Gen. Tito also said that about 30 military police had been slightly injured by the stone-throwers, who also burned wooden tables and pallets at makeshift barricades, and had attempted to make and thrown Molotov cocktails.
“A total of 30 military police were injured, but with minor injuries, but there were a lot of police who got serious injuries,” he said.
He added that a “Phnom Penh military police organization” would cover the medical expenses of the slightly injured officers, while the families of injured protesters would be expected to foot their own bills.
“Humanitarians who felt sympathy for the injured military” had also donated money toward their medical expenses, Brig. Gen. Tito said, declining to say who or how much.
On Friday, the Cambodia Express News reported that former Phnom Penh governor and current CPP lawmaker Kep Chuktema gave about 1 million riel (about $250) to badly injured police and about $125 to those with minor injuries.
Chin Thav, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier based in Kompong Speu province, said that his 19-year-old brother-in-law, Hoeun Kan, a garment worker, remains at Preah Kossamak hospital after being shot in the thigh by the military police.
“Garment workers are poor, so the government that ordered the armed forces to open fire on garment workers should help cover medical expenses for them,” he said.
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