Journalists and human rights observer attacked in crackdown on peaceful protests

Note: This is all taken from Twitter reports from the scene. For more breaking news, analysis and commentary follow Will Jackson.

A human rights observer and journalists were tasered by electric prod, baton and slingshot wielding “thugs” overnight as police smashed a peaceful hunger strike protest at Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom .

Twitter reports from the scene said about six protesters, including elderly women, were injured as police and plain-clothes men swarmed over the hilltop temple in the north of the city’s CBD about 10pm.

One early estimate put the number of police and plain clothes assailants at 400.

However, other estimates were lower.

Some of the protesters were taken to hospital suffering severe welts on their bodies from marbles fired from slingshots while at least one suffered a serious head wound.

 

 

One local and three foreign journalists and one human rights observer were tasered and/or hit with projectiles.

Afterwards, Cambodia Daily journalist Denise Hruby tweeted a photo of the mark left by one of the electric prods.

Members of the Boeung Kak Lake and Borei Keila communities — who have been running ongoing demonstrations since being evicted during separate land grabs in the past couple of years— had begun a peaceful hunger strike earlier on Sunday protesting the results of the recent national elections.

Photographer John Vink was there earlier in the evening and took some photos.


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A hunger strike by Prince Sisowath Thomico at the same location on Friday evening was also disrupted within hours by police although in that instance Prince Thomico and his supporters left the area peacefully.

Cambodia’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, activist monks and other disaffected groups of citizens have been staging daily demonstrations against the results of July 28’s national election in the lead-up to the re-opening of the National Assembly on Monday.

The opening of the new parliament was expected to go ahead despite the delivery of a petition with about 250,000 thumbprints to King Nordom Sihamoni on Sunday asking for it to be delayed.

From September 15-17 the CNRP held a massive three-day demonstration with crowds of about 30,000 attending rallies at Freedom Park and hundreds camping out for the duration.

The government’s security measures during the protests — which included blocking off dozens of roads including major arterials all over the city — sparked confrontations which lead to two outbreaks of violence and one death.

Since then groups of monks have been staging daily peaceful public prayer sessions while other protest groups have held small rallies.

The CNRP is demanding an independent investigation into the election which it claims was rigged by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, reform of the National Election Committee and other measures.

The CNRP is expected to follow through on its threat to boycott the new  parliament until its demands are met.

Read the Phnom Penh Post’s report of Sunday night’s incident (including a video) here.

Here is the Cambodia Daily’s account of what happened (with a limited paywall). Interestingly, they mention that the lighting around the wat was shut off before the raid.

Freelance photographer Omar Havana has some photos of incident here.

For more updates follow Abby Seiff, Kevin Doyle, Denise HrubyRicky Valenzuela and Alex Higgins on Twitter.

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