Cambodia: Vendor Killed as Protesters Clash with Police

PHNOM PENH – One woman was killed and at least five others were wounded when protesters clashed with police outside the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

The woman was a rice vendor who was shot in the chest and died later in the hospital, after demonstrating workers tried to break through a police barrier outside the premier’s home, rights workers said.

National police officials could not be reached for comment, but Kheng Tito, a spokesman for the military police, who were also present at the scene, said a police investigation would be conducted into the shooting death.

“Our military police were just a back-up force,” he said. “We were there only after police had already clashed with protesters. They ran away immediately when they saw our forces arrive. Those who remained were apprehended and handed over to police for further action.”

At least 37 people were arrested as a result of the clash, which took place Tuesday morning.

Am Sam Ath, lead monitor for the rights group Licadho, said beatings took place after protesters were arrested.

“The beatings were illegal,” he said. “I believe there were some hostile acts [by protesters], but after they are arrested, the law should be used, because the law does not permit beating.”

Those who did the beating should be punished, he said. “If not, this will escalate.”

Demonstrators came from the SL Garment Factory in Phnom Penh and had hoped to deliver a petition to Hun Sen. When they encountered a police barricade, they tried to pass it, leading to clashes with police.

Witnesses said that innocent bystanders, including the woman killed, were caught up in the ensuing violence.

A coconut vendor at the scene was seriously wounded in the head, arms and legs, after he was beaten by police, who chased him.

Members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party condemned the violence and called for an end of such brutality by security forces.