Journalists Garner Support, Monks Silent in Wake of Attacks

Condemnation has grown following Friday’s attack on a journalist near Freedom Park as the Ministry of Information joined the U.N. Human Rights Office in denouncing the attacks.

On Saturday, the U.N.’s human rights representative in Cambodia, Wan-Hea Lee, called for an investigation into the beating of journalists, including Voice of Democracy reporter Lay Samean, who was beaten unconscious Friday by helmeted government thugs.

“A crime is a crime and must be investigated. A crime by security forces of the state are an even graver crime…they must be investigated,” said Ms. Lee, speaking at a World Press Freedom Day event at Phnom Penh’s InterContinental Hotel.

Ms. Lee also said it was important to reject the attitude that complaints against security forces are futile due to the “weak system of rule of law.”

“I’d like to turn that around and say it’s even more [important] because that’s the case. Give the rule of law a chance,” she said, urging journalists to take legal action against their aggressors.

In a statement released Sunday, the Ministry of Information condemned the “intimidation, violence, confiscation of equipment and contempt for journalists,” calling Friday’s acts a “very serious violation on freedom of the press in the Kingdom of Cambodia.”

“The Information Ministry also appeals to all relevant parties to cooperate with each other to exercise the right, freedoms, roles, and duties properly as principles of a multiparty liberal democracy stipulated in the Constitution.”

However, solidarity with activist monk Luon Sovath, who was also attacked by Daun Penh security guards Friday, has not been as forthcoming from Cambodia’s Buddhist clergy.

“I don’t think we will invite him to hear [about the attack] since Luon Sovath doesn’t listen and respect his superior monk in Siem Reap,” Phnom Penh’s chief monk Kim Son said Monday.

“When I talked to him [in the past], he alleged that I was one of a group of monks serving the ruling party, so he doesn’t listen to anyone,” he added. “In general, we cannot conclude and intervene after listening to only one-sided information.”

In response, Luon Sovath, who claimed he was pelted with rocks by security forces Friday, said those who accuse him of disrespecting higher clergy were effectively collaborating with his abusers.

“They support the violations, they support injustice and they support human rights violations in Cambodia.”

(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)

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