Three Men Arrested for Lawmaker Assaults

Three of the men at a pro-CPP protest who beat CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea last week as they tried to leave the National Assembly turned themselves in Tuesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

A statement released by General Sopheak last night said that the three men—Chay Sarith, 33; Mao Hoeun, 34; and Suth Vanny, 45—handed themselves in at about 4:30 p.m. to officials on the government’s committee investigating the assaults.

Reached by telephone, Gen. Sopheak said the men were the same ones who can be seen kicking and stomping on the lawmakers in videos of the October 26 protest, and that further arrests were unlikely.

“These are the culprits who directly attacked them. The others were just around them shouting,” Gen. Sopheak explained, adding he did not believe someone else had organized the attacks on the lawmakers.

“They were led by themselves,” he said. “They came to report themselves to the authorities and the next step is they will receive their punishment according to the law. We will send them to the court tomorrow.”

Gen. Sopheak said he could not comment further on the details of the trio’s arrest or their motives for assaulting the two CNRP lawmakers, as he was not a member of the eight-man investigation committee.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who has accused Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP of orchestrating the attacks on the lawmakers in retribution for protests that met him overseas, said after his return from France last night he still wanted a broader investigation.

“It would be premature for me to make any comment because I want to ask people who know and who have been following this closely, and then I can make appropriate comments,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“This is just one clue. It’s an indication. I still call for a broad investigative looking into all aspects.”

Asked whether that meant looking into who had organized the three men in their attack on the lawmakers, which occurred while police looked on, Mr. Rainsy said: “I said ‘all aspects.’”

Mr. Rainsy and the CNRP have asked for a more inclusive inquiry into the assaults, with members of the opposition, civil society and the U.N. allowed to participate in or oversee the official investigation.

Despite these calls for an inclusive inquiry, the Interior Ministry announced a day after the attack that two members of the CPP’s central committee would lead its eight-man investigative team.

Both Interior Ministry Secretary of State Em Sam An, the inquiry committee’s chairman, and Deputy National Police Commissioner Chhay Sinarith, his deputy, sit on the CPP central committee—while Lieutenant General Sinarith also sits on the ruling party’s new propaganda and education committee.

Each of the six other officials are also CPP members, including two deputy chiefs of the Phnom Penh municipal police, whose forces have been accused both of standing idly by as the lawmakers were beaten and of joining the protest in civilian clothes.

The U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights last week stressed that the inquiry into last week’s beatings had to be independent.

Wan-Hea Lee, the country representative of the U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said Tuesday that the government should reconsider the composition of its committee if it cannot adequately explain its independence.

In an email, Ms. Lee reiterated the OHCHR statement last week that the probe’s credibility “rests on its independence, impartiality, thoroughness and promptness.”

“In this regard, the Government would benefit from explaining the independence and impartiality of the investigative team, or else reconsidering its composition so as to enhance its credibility,” Ms. Lee said.

“OHCHR is ready to contribute if it is deemed that it could play a helpful role,” she added.

In an interview at the Interior Ministry earlier Tuesday, Gen. Sopheak said Ms. Lee’s suggestion that the U.N.’s human rights office or others could participate in the inquiry would be an unusual usurpation of Cambodia’s sovereignty.

“How many countries has the U.N. OHCHR done this in?” he asked. “Cambodian law has sovereignty…and does not require the participation of any NGOs besides this committee that has been created.”

Gen. Sopheak said that Mr. Sam An and Lt. Gen. Sinarith would not let politics get in the way of finding out the full story of who was behind the attack on the lawmakers at the pro-CPP protest last week.

“They are in the party, and they carry out their roles within the party—but for state work, they carry out their state work normally, because they receive their salary from the nation,” Gen. Sopheak said.

“We want to be praised by local and international quarters, so we need to work hard to arrest the perpetrators,” he added. “If we cannot arrest the perpetrators, we will lose our honor.”

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