The 16-year-old son of a former opposition official was struck in the head with a brick by unidentified attackers this week while picking up his mother, a “Friday Women of Cambodia” protester, from buying food, she said.
Prum Chantha, the victim’s mother, said two strangers on a white motorbike drove at her in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tompun I commune on Tuesday, hurling a brick from about 1.5 meters away and striking her son in the head. They were about 200 meters from their house.
The son was rushed to a private clinic after two public hospitals, Khmer-Soviet and Preah Kossamak, said they would be unable to treat emergency cases amid the Covid-19 lockdown, Chantha said.
He received 20 stitches before being sent home, she said.
Chantha has been an active protester after her husband, Kak Komphear, was jailed for incitement and plotting, one of several opposition wives and daughters who protested weekly outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Komphear is part of mass trials against former opposition CNRP officials for their alleged support of exiled party co-founder Sam Rainsy’s attempt to return to the country while urging soldiers to defect.
The CNRP, the country’s main opposition party, was controversially dissolved in 2017.
Chantha said nearby business owners had not been able to capture surveillance camera footage of the incident. “I have no hope,” she said.
She had filed a complaint with commune police on Tuesday, but she had little expectation of justice, saying the incident — similar to a series of attacks against those linked to the CNRP, including a man struck with a brick at a market in October — could be political in nature.
“I’ve been persuaded, threatened and offered money [to stop protesting], but I wasn’t afraid whatever the action. So they used this way to break our women group’s spirit and all politicians’ wives, but don’t expect that it will work,” Chantha said. “Even if they take my life, I won’t give up.”
Boeng Tompun I commune police chief Chhin Chamroeun said authorities had been unable to identify the suspects yet because of the lack of surveillance footage.
Officers would continue to search for footage from other street cameras, and send the case to higher authorities if there is no progress after a week, Chamroeun said.
“We’ll keep checking,” he said. “Most of the cameras are placed in front of the houses and it happened on the street, so there haven’t been any results yet.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesman San Sokseyha acknowledged there had been some cases of violence against former CNRP members, but said he did not have a total number as local police officers do not record victims’ political affiliations.
Authorities were investigating without discrimination, he said.
“As I’ve stated before, there’s no guarantee that the investigations will find this or that, because it depends on the actual location, whether there is any evidence, clear camera footage,” Sokseyha said. “These are investigative matters.”
CNRP vice president Mu Sochua said in October that there had been 16 assaults against CNRP-affiliated individuals since the party was dissolved, and called the attacks “systematic.”
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at human rights group Licadho, said the total was now over 20.
He was concerned about the cases as no suspects had been found, he said.
“We, the civil society organizations working on human rights, still insist that no matter what the circumstances, authorities must investigate and find the perpetrators and bring them to justice in order to end impunity and fear,” Sam Ath said.
The 16-year-old attacked on Tuesday was also arrested in October after he entered the CNRP’s former headquarters in Chak Angre Loeu commune, and was held for two days. He was released after signing an agreement to avoid the premises and stop posting information online liable to cause confusion.
Correction (September 29): The boy’s age has been changed from 15 to 16 based on his birthday recorded with the court during his trial for incitement.