An investigation into the attacks on two opposition lawmakers outside parliament last year by members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, published on Thursday by Human Rights Watch, found further links to the elite unit and urged a full investigation by the Cambodian authorities into the incident.
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were badly beaten after being dragged from their cars as they left parliament in October last year. The two lawmakers were sent for treatment in Thailand.
Human Rights Watch said in its report, Dragged and Beaten, that the government should ensure “appropriate prosecutions of those found to be involved in planning, organizing, carrying out, authorizing, or obstructing investigations into the October 26 attack, regardless of rank or position.”
“We uncovered relevant information on Hun Sen’s bodyguard forces, including their origins, development, and their current deployment, organization, and chain of command, which ends with the prime minister,” read the summary.
“The bodyguard unit has long been notorious for serious human rights violations, including the March 30, 1997 grenade attack on a rally led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy that killed at least 16 people and injured more than 150.”
Videos of the attacks were posted online and went viral, prompting the arrest of three men who later confessed to committing the crime.
Saphea’s right eardrum has not fully healed to this day, while Chamroeun’s right wrist was broken. Chamroeun said that his teeth were also knocked out during the attack.
Saphea said that he would be thrilled if a full investigation would take place and more people, including the ring leaders, would be arrested, adding that he wants the government to work with the United Nations to investigate the attack.
“Common people would not dare to beat up lawmakers; there must be powerful people behind the attack,” he said.
“I think the idea of working with the UN to find justice for us is good,” he said. “I do not have faith in the government, but if they are willing to seek the perpetrators, and cooperate with the [UN], it’s good,” he said.
“I am not happy because only three people confessed. There were many people beating me,” he said.
Human Rights Watch also suggested that the government seek assistance from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to help ensure the independence, impartiality, and credibility of the investigation.
Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, said allowing the UN to be involved in the investigation would mean that Cambodia would “lose its sovereignty”.
“We do not refuse to cooperate, but when it comes to investigation, never has a country let the UN be involved in it,” he said, adding that the case is in the hands of the Cambodian courts.
Human Rights Watch also called on international donors to press the Cambodian government to reform its security forces and press for judicial independence.
“End the Ministry of Justice’s de facto supervisory role of the judiciary,” it read.