At least one human rights worker and a land rights activist were attacked while celebrating World Habitat Day on Monday.
Para-police from the Phnom Penh district of Daun Penh attacked the march and injured Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager for local rights group Licadho, as well as Chan Puthisak, a representative of the Boeung Kak Lake community.
Several other minor injuries were reported.
Sam Ath said following the beating that for uniformed security forces to attack peaceful human rights workers who had identity cards on display showed how bad the situation had become.
“There’s no doubt now why local and international organizations are concerned over rights and freedoms in Cambodia,” he said.
“The government doesn’t need to make denials. What happened today explains everything.”
Hundreds of land activists had gathered to protest land grabbing, intending to march from the Dey Krahorm eviction site in the capital to the Royal Palace and Freedom Park.
However, the district security guards blocked their path close to the National Museum.
Sixty civil society groups signed a joint statement condemning the attack.
Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the government was “not willing to protect human rights as mentioned in the Constitution.”
But Mean Chanyada, a City Hall spokesman, said the attack occurred because demonstrators had failed to follow instructions.
“Their plan was different from their request to us and the authorities tried to move them to the right direction to Freedom Park,” he said.
“They didn’t follow the order, so there was a small clash.”
The attacks took place as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia begins her latest mission in the country.