In another case of violence against people linked to the upended opposition CNRP, a Phnom Penh activist was surrounded by four men at a Chroy Changva market and beaten with metal rods in broad daylight.
The activist, Sin Khon, 31, lives at a pagoda and was buying vegetables to cook for monks, he said on Wednesday, hours after the incident. A few days before the attack, a group of strangers visited the pagoda and appeared to be surveilling the area, a monk there said.
Khon didn’t even have the chance to lower his motorbike’s kickstand as he parked at Doeum Sral market around 10:30 a.m. when the four men surrounded him, he said.
Two of the men swung metal rods at him. When they failed to connect, the two others joined in, he said.
“They all came in together,” Khon told VOD.
The four assailants, all wearing helmets, struck him on the head, above his left eyebrow, on his left wrist, and all over his body. They were on two motorbikes — a Honda PCX and a Super Cub — and all roughly 1.75 to 1.8 meters tall, he said, adding that he could not get their license plate numbers.
Many people were at the scene but wouldn’t dare to come help him, according to Khon.
“[It’s] too savage — very cruel, really cruel. They beat us without reason,” he said. “[They] consider me not [even] equal to an animal, not a human at all.”
Khon shouted for help, and eventually a man he knew took him to a private clinic, where he received 12 stitches. He had yet to get an X-ray for the wrist he suspected was broken.
A former member of the outlawed CNRP’s youth wing in Chroy Changva district, Khon said he was still involved in some activities to support other ex-party members — many of whom are in jail or on trial.
Recently, he was involved in distributing food aid to people in need in Phnom Penh’s lockdown areas, and had made social media posts about political difficulties, he said.
Khon said he had filed a complaint with district police, but had no reason to believe they would act. Dozens of other opposition supporters have been assaulted since the party’s dissolution in 2017, with no progress made on police investigations. A 15-year-old son of an on-trial CNRP official was hit in the head with a brick two weeks ago.
“There are many activists who were beaten and imprisoned. Now I am one of them too. I have no hope,” he said. He added that he had no personal conflict or debt that would explain the attack — only politics.
Nop Vanny, a monk at Pothiyaram pagoda where Khon lives, said he was in disbelief about the attack.
A few days earlier, he had noticed a group of strangers coming to the pagoda, also known in Chroy Changva as Wat Chas.
“We had never seen them before. It was kind of like they came to follow or see something. We wouldn’t dare to say, but they were different from those who come to relax,” Vanny said.
Chroy Changva district police chief Siem Sothavuth could not be reached on Wednesday.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesperson San Sokseyha said that before filing complaints, citizens must have confidence in the authorities. And they shouldn’t conclude that an incident is political without evidence, he said.
Police have never dropped a complaint, but progress depends on evidence, he said.
“The main problem is their own perception, which tends to be in opposition. Any little thing, they accuse that side, accuse the authorities, accuse the government about all those problems. That’s the point of having no belief — no trust in the authorities,” Sokseyha said.
Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the attacks against opposition supporters affect the freedoms of everyone, especially to express themselves and participate in politics.
“I call on the authorities to find justice for the victims and ensure the safety of all citizens in society. Help us to feel safe,” Sopheap said.