Attacked CNRP Member Remains Mostly Unconscious, Police Say No Leads

3 min read
Security video footage supplied by CNRP vice president Mu Sochua shows a motorbike passenger smashing a brick onto the head of a passerby.
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A Phnom Penh resident and CNRP member who was struck with a brick one week ago is still in a serious condition in hospital, while police say they have not found any leads to an incident caught on CCTV.

Din Varin, a 48-year-old organic vegetable seller in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Krom commune, was sent to the hospital with head injuries after Chak Angre market vendors witnessed an attack last Monday by two men on motorbikes. 

A week after having surgery, Varin’s wife Chan Sopheak said the man is mostly unconscious in the hospital, and she does not know when he will recover. 

“He is awake for about one or two hours and then he goes back to sleep,” she said. “He can’t speak and can open one eye.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesperson San Sokseyha said police had yet to find any leads as of Monday. He said he did not know when any suspects may emerge, but it was too early to call the case “politically motivated.”

“They are accused of being politically motivated, but sometimes it could be a case of revenge … or a personal case,” he said.

However, exiled CNRP officials and family members of attacked and arrested opposition figures suspected that these violent attacks were not random. 

Mu Sochua, the opposition party’s vice president living in exile in the U.S., told VOD last week there had been about 16 assaults on individuals who worked with the CNRP since the party dissolved, calling the attacks “systematic” due to the similarities among them. 

Heng Borey, 24, said that her father, Heng Chansothy — the former deputy chief of the opposition party in Pur Senchey district — was attacked while driving his motorbike about six months before he was arrested for plotting on June 5. 

“He is an ordinary person and they arrested him [after he was attacked already], while the case of his attack has no solution,” she said.

Borey said her father had not been conducting any political activities leading up to his arrest, calling both the attack and the detention an injustice.

“I think this is politically motivated because it happened again and again even though he did nothing wrong,” she said.

Nearly 50 people have been arrested this year amid a crackdown on dissenting voices and protests.

Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for the human rights group Adhoc, said it was hard to consider the violent attacks as completely random when the victims were associated with a banned and suppressed opposition party.

“Why do those acts of violence keep happening on the former opposition party activists?” he asked.  “An accusation of political motivation cannot be avoided because those victims are political activists.”

Senkaruna noted that many of the attacks have clear leads, such as CCTV footage, which in the case of Varin caught the motorbike passengers without helmets or masks. Police could avoid being accused of intentionally leaving cases unsolved if they pursued all leads, he said.

“It could subsequently happen to other activists if there are no strict measures taken against the perpetrators, and it could lead to criticism from both national and international communities for failing to respect all existing laws and having a double standard,” he said.

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