More Arrests Possible in Lawmaker Assault Case

Prosecutors are continuing to review video footage of last month’s attack on opposition CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea and may order additional arrests after three soldiers turned themselves in last week, a court official said Sunday.

Yet authorities continued to claim ignorance of the military units the three soldiers belonged to, despite public calls for their superiors to be named and investigated due to allegations that the attacks were well organized.

Meas Chanpiseth, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court who is in charge of the case, repeated claims that authorities were not sure where the arrested soldiers came from.

“I just know they are soldiers, but I do not know what unit they work for,” Mr. Chanpiseth said. “According to the video, there were many other fighters, so we are continuing to investigate.

“I cannot tell you anything in relation to the other people, because this is an investigation. If I tell you about this issue, they will know, and will escape,” he said.

Mr. Chanpiseth declined to comment further on the case and referred questions to Investigating Judge Y Thavrak, who declined to comment.

Sieng Sen, director of the Interior Ministry’s internal security department and a member of the eightman committee tasked with looking into the assaults, said they were cautiously continuing to investigate.

“The committee has been continuing to investigate,” Major General Sen said, explaining that his team was wary of footage uploaded to social media, as it might be altered.

“The videos on the Facebook pages cannot be taken as official in this modern age,” he said.

Social media websites—particularly Facebook—have been awash with video clips and photographs of the beatings since they occurred on October 26, with users attempting to identify the men who can be seen kicking and stomping on the lawmakers.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Chhay Sinarith, deputy chairman of the investigating committee, could not be reached. However, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the committee was prepared to follow orders from the municipal court.

“We are waiting for orders from the court, to see what the court orders,” he said, adding he too did not know where the soldiers came from, but was sure they were not from the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit.

“[The bodyguard unit] announced a denial that they are military officials from the bodyguard unit,” he said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who left for Mongolia on Thursday, has called for a widereaching investigation and accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of organizing the attacks on his lawmakers.

Last week, General Sopheak said he believed the three arrested soldiers—Chay Sarith, 33; Mao Hoeun, 34; and Suth Vanny, 45—were acting alone and not on orders of others.

Mr. Hun Sen said he believed the soldiers had simply been reacting to verbal insults from the lawmakers as they left the National Assembly building, and had lashed out in a fit of anger.

Yet civil society groups and the opposition CNRP have noted the seemingly wellorganized nature of the attacks, which occurred during a protest against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha that was promoted by Mr. Hun Sen the night before.

They have said that security guards at the National Assembly funneled the two lawmakers to the site of their assault after refusing to allow them to leave the compound’s regular gates, and that police posted nearby allowed the attacks to occur.

Mr. Rainsy has claimed the attacks were carried out in retribution for protests that met Mr. Hun Sen overseas, and the premier, while condemning the attacks, has said the protest during which they occurred was indeed organized in retaliation.

“If there’s no fire, there’s no smoke, and if there were no demonstrations in New York and Paris, there would have been no demonstrations in Phnom Penh either,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech on Thursday.

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