Recent clashes in Cambodia, in which police were seen beating individuals with truncheons and shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets from close range, must be urgently investigated to ensure full accountability for the use of excessive force, the United Nations human rights office said today.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), voiced serious concern about the violent clashes which took place in the Stung Meanchey district of the capital, Phnom Penh, on 12 November.
The clashes started after striking garment workers were prevented from walking to the Prime Minister’s residence, where they were planning to stage a demonstration, Mr. Colville said.
“One bystander was shot dead and many others seriously injured during the clashes that followed involving demonstrators, civilians who were not initially taking part in the protest, and armed municipal police and gendarmerie forces,” he stated.
“The police were seen beating individuals with truncheons, and shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets from close range.”
He added that while most of the 38 people arrested during the clashes have now been released, two minors – aged 14 and 17 – reportedly remain in custody.
This latest incident follows previous clashes which took place in September near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Bridge, where police and gendarmerie forces fired into a crowd at a roadblock, resulting in one death and several injuries.
“We are following up with the concerned authorities and urging them to launch a prompt and thorough investigation into these clashes and to ensure full accountability for members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force,” said Mr. Colville.
“We also urge them to ensure that the minors who have been arrested are treated in a manner appropriate to their age and in accordance with international human rights standards.”
While urging protestors to ensure that the demonstrations remain peaceful, OHCHR also called on the authorities to ensure that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is fully respected.