The Appeal Court has rejected a plea from two Boeung Kak activists to restart an investigation into a nighttime attack on lake residents, journalists and others in 2013 at Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom by thugs and plainclothes police officials.
Amid rising tensions following the disputed 2013 elections, land activists from the Boueng Kak and Borei Keila communities were attacked by a group of men wearing masks and armed with slingshots, batons and cattle prods during a candlelight vigil in September of 2013, with 11 activists and a rights monitor requiring medical attention after the fray. Several others, including reporters covering the rally, received minor injuries.
The two activists and plaintiffs in the case – Nget Khun and Phan Chhunret – were challenging the procedures used by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to drop the investigation in 2017. The activists had filed a court complaint in 2013.
But presiding Judge Thou Mony rejected their appeal, with Khun saying the judge upheld the Phnom Penh Court’s decision to drop the case.
“The criminal chamber of the Appeal Court ruled to uphold the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court because the court finds that the complaint of the plaintiff failed to clearly state the identity of the defendants,” she said, relaying the words of the judge.
She carried along with her photos of the alleged attackers and one of an injury she received on her chest from a slingshot, but the three-judge panel found the evidence insufficient.
“The court always decides that poor people lose and the rich or government officials always win. This is injustice for us,” she said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court had provisionally charged unnamed individuals for intentional violence and had questioned some of the lake residents and Daun Penh officials, but an investigating judge dropped the charges.
The Boeung Kak lawsuit also named four Daun Penh district officials, whom they claimed were at the crackdown. They were then-Deputy District Governor Sok Penhvuth, Director of Public Order Kim Vutha, district council official Sok Cheata and Deputy District Police Chief Sao Nol.
The crackdown began around 10pm when the protesters were clearing up the area where they had demonstrated, spelling out the word “justice” with candles.
As they left the area, according to witnesses, police and a group of young men began shooting marbles into the group with slingshots, beating people and electrocuting others.