Opposition lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were beaten and severely injured by protesters outside the National Assembly on Monday morning during a demonstration demanding that CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha step down as the parliament’s vice president.
Videos of the incident show Mr. Chamroeun, bloody and badly beaten, being led away from the protesters by his assistants, and Mr. Saphea being dragged from his SUV by protesters who repeatedly punch and kick him in the face.
With a heavy police presence apparently providing security on both ends of the road in front of the Assembly, hundreds of protesters spent the morning chanting for Mr. Sokha to stand down, calling him a “dogshit leader” and a cheat.
The protest was peaceful until CNRP lawmakers started leaving the Assembly building around noon after a morning session of the parliament, at which point some of the protesters converged upon their SUVs.
Mr. Chamroeun — who was severely beaten by Daun Penh district security guards last year during a CNRP protest, leaving his skull broken — said the protesters on Monday dragged him from his car before beginning to kick and punch him.
“I was attacked outside the National Assembly after the [Assembly] session. They threw me on the grass and beat me up. They broke my nose, broke my teeth and broke my ear and my ribs and right eye,” Mr. Chamroeun said.
Asked if he had interacted with the protesters in the lead-up to the fight, Mr. Chamroeun said that he had not and was simply attempting to leave the Assembly building.
“The demonstrators were outside and they just surrounded me. They dragged me out of the car. I can’t talk much right now because I am not feeling good,” he said.
Mr. Saphea, who had been in a separate SUV, said he too was simply trying to leave the Assembly building when he was dragged out of his vehicle.
“When I was leaving the National Assembly, there was one man talking on a walkie-talkie to others, then one man stood in front of the car to stop us. They opened the door and dragged me out,” Mr. Saphea said.
“While I was being attacked on the ground, another 20 people arrived and were trying to grab me as I was trying to get back into the car. I tried to get back into the car three times, but they kept attacking me,” he added.
Mr. Saphea said that the protesters also stole his wallet, mobile phone and money during the assault.
“There were just a few traffic police standing there and no authorities came to intervene. They just stood and did not attempt to prevent them from doing anything.”
Speaking on Sunday night in France, where he is on an official state visit, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was aware of Monday morning’s planned protest.
“While there is going to be a protest here [in Paris], I also received a message from Phnom Penh asking to hold a protest tomorrow. Now how can I settle this problem?” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“Tomorrow there will be a demonstration in Phnom Penh against the opposition party and to demand the removal of the deputy president of the National Assembly from the opposition party because he got this position through a CPP vote, so he must be removed by a CPP vote,” he added. “I respect the right to hold demonstrations.”
However, a CPP official said after the protest that it was not an official CPP event. Party spokesman Sok Eysan said he was unsure if the ruling party could take responsibility for the injuries sustained by the two CNRP lawmakers, explaining that the protest had no particular leaders and got out of control.
“I don’t know, because there was a mixture of demonstrators. I am so sorry that the protesters came to express their rights at the National Assembly but then used violence. It is hard to find the perpetrators,” Mr. Eysan said.
“It was not organized by the CPP,” he added. “It was a mixture [of people], not only the CPP.”
Phnom Penh deputy municipal police chief Song Ly said that he was aware the two lawmakers were beaten while leaving the Assembly, but declined to comment, referring questions to district police posted at the site.
Chamkar Mon district deputy police chief Heang Thareth confirmed that he too knew of the incident, but declined to comment further on it or explain why police posted at the protest did not intervene to protect the two lawmakers.
(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim and Kuch Naren)
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