Ex-Opposition Officials, Family Fear Future Attacks, Want Investigations

4 min read
A photo supplied by Prum Chantha shows her son’s head injury after he was attacked with a brick by unknown assailants in April 2021.

Former CNRP officials and their families say they are worried that assaults against them will continue, “again and again,” and remain unsolved by police, following last month’s attack against a 15-year-old — whose mother says she was “neglectful” for not making him wear a helmet outside.

Prum Chantha, wife of a jailed ex-opposition official who protested alongside the “Friday Women of Cambodia,” said last week that she was not expecting her son to be attacked so shortly after Phnom Penh’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions relaxed. 

“Please, brothers and sisters, be careful of others. Wherever you go, as long as it’s outside your house, wear a helmet consistently,” Chantha said, warning others “not to neglect any second” and monitor their surroundings.

Two strangers hit her 15-year-old son in the head with a brick late last month while he was picking up Chantha from the market in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun I commune, requiring 20 stitches and causing some lasting headaches.

Chantha said she believed the case was politically motivated — his father, Kak Komphear, is a former CNRP official who is detained for incitement and plotting, while the son was arrested in October and detained for two days after illegally entering a closed Chak Angre Loeu commune CNRP office.

“Due to my negligence because I thought it was quiet and locked down, so I was neglectful, not [requiring my son to] wear a helmet,” she said. She said that she filed a complaint the same day as the attack but still had not heard any further updates.

Boeng Tompun I commune police chief Chhim Chamroeun told VOD last week that he sent the case to district police after finding no clues following a week of investigation, adding that security footage from her house and nearby buildings and roads did not capture the attack, making it difficult to investigate.

Meanchey district police chief Meng Vimeandara would not answer questions over the phone.

Family members of other former opposition officials attacked in recent years said that they had yet to receive any information about their cases with police, with one woman saying she still fears that she and her family could be attacked when they go outside.

Heng Borey, daughter of Heng Chansothy, the CNRP’s former vice president of Pur Senchey district, said she had lost hope that authorities would find out who attacked her father in late 2019. She said her father had no longer been involved in politics and was only watching his grandchildren when he was hit in the head while driving his motorbike. He was arrested and jailed as part of a roundup of former CNRP officials last June.

“I’m very worried about this problem [of violence]. I’m afraid it will happen again and again, and it may affect the safety of my whole family,” she said. “Whenever I go somewhere, I’m always careful because I’m concerned we could have a risk every time … now my father was arrested, I am even more worried.”

Charged for plotting last year but released on bail, Sam Rainsy’s former bodyguard Pouk Chanda said he would like justice after he was struck in the head by an unknown assailant in 2019. However, he did not expect to receive any proper investigation or justice, adding that an attack of a former CNRP commune chief was caught on camera but still no perpetrator was identified.

“They won’t find justice for us,” he said. “Beating has happened the same against us, one by one, as [we] see. Hitting everyone like that, but no one [perpetrator] has been found. … I am just careful of myself in a situation like this. Now I never do something [political].”

Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesperson San Sokseyha claimed that the attacks against former CNRP officials could be the result of other problems like personal conflict or debt. He added that police were investigating violence cases equally and not discriminating against victims for their political affiliation, adding that victims of crimes should trust authorities and not label them as politically motivated.

“We always make an effort, no matter what the case is, but whether we achieve success [in finding a perpetrator] sooner or later, it depends on the actual case and the inspection method,” he said. “It can’t happen the way they think — [they] file, [then] caught shortly after.”

Adhoc spokesperson Soeng Senkaruna said that former opposition activists and their families have lost hope of finding justice in cases of violence because the attacks are often similar but no perpetrators had been identified.

By Adhoc’s count, nearly 30 former CNRP activists or their families have been attacked since the opposition party was dissolved in November 2017.

“In order to prevent this [accusation] problem from happening, it is necessary for the authorities to take actions to find out that it is not a political matter and to explain to the public why this happened. Until the public can trust, not just making a show.”

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