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Beehive Radio Protesters Clash With Police

A protester escapes from riot police officers who fire tear gas grenades during a protest in Phnom Penh, Jan. 27, 2014.
A protester escapes from riot police officers who fire tear gas grenades during a protest in Phnom Penh, Jan. 27, 2014.
More than 100 riot police on Monday broke up a demonstration organized by Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando, who was protesting the government’s denial to grant him permission to expand his radio network.

Beehive Radio broadcast Voice of America and Radio Free Asia programming, among others.

Witnesses say at least nine people were injured when protesters clashed with police armed with shields, electric batons and smoke canisters.

The clashes took place as Mam Sonando and his supporters tried to march on the Ministry of Information, near Freedom Park, in the center of the capital.

“The people’s demands are legitimate, constitutional, and in line with government policy,” Mam Sonando said. “I am here to support what the people want. But if the people resort to violence, I won't support it.”

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito told VOA Khmer that Mam Sonando and his demonstrators had blocked traffic and “disturbed social order,” prompting the crackdown.

“He also refused repeated requests to disband,” Kheng Tito said. “Therefore, our forces had no choice but to disperse them.”

At least nine people were injured in the clashes, though no one was reported arrested or killed.

Sok Ny, a 35-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, said he had been caught up in the fray and beaten by riot police, after they shooed him out of the street. “They ordered me to leave and beat me on my head,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, called the crackdown “cruel” and “not acceptable.”

“It is a serious violation of human rights,” he said. “There should be negotiations, and we don’t want to see the use of violence like this.”

Monday’s conflict follows similar violence between protesters and security forces in Freedom Park on Sunday. Pro-opposition and labor demonstrators clashed with police and ruling party supporters.

US-based Human Rights Watch on Monday called on the UN to pressure the Cambodian government over the recent violence.

“Countries at the Human Rights Council should condemn this brutal crackdown and insist the Cambodian government engage in serious reforms,” the group’s Geneva director, Juliette de Rivero, said in a statement.

Meanwhile on Monday, representatives from three separate Phnom Penh neighborhoods that have been hard hit by forced evictions attempted to deliver petitions to Phnom Penh City Hall—but no officials would agree to accept them.

The petitioners are asking for more land or money from the city, which has backed a number of development projects that have led to forced evictions, protests and violence.