PHNOM PENH —
Three men who claim to have been involved in the attacks on two opposition lawmakers last week were quickly charged and detained by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday.
The suspects—Chay Sarith, 33; Mao Hoeurn 34; and Suth Vanny, 45—turned themselves in to police Tuesday afternoon, claiming to be the assailants of lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea.
Last week’s attacks followed anti-opposition protests endorsed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and took place in plain view of police, who stood by.
Officials from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party say they believe there were more than three attackers. And the two injured lawmakers, who are still recovering in a Bangkok hospital, told VOA Khmer they want to see the “masterminds” behind the attacks arrested as well.
Meas Chan Piseth, deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, told VOA that he charged the three men for “intentionally causing violence and destruction of property.” The suspects are being detained while the investigating judge undertakes the case. The men face up to seven years each.
Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponrith cautiously praised the charges, but he said the number of assailants seen in videos of the attack was more than three. “We hope the authorities continue to work on this,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator for the rights group Licadho, told VOA Khmer the confessions were “a little bit strange,” coming as they did just a few hours after complaints by the special appointed investigative committee that it was having difficulty apprehending the suspects.
“Actually, the turning up of the suspects is a way to cut down on criticism and pressure on the government and ruling party,” he said.
Speaking from Bangkok, the two lawmakers said they wanted further investigation.
“We want to know who was behind the beatings, and who are the masterminds,” Nhay Chamroeun said. Kong Saphea said the authorities need to make more arrests, and to make sure that the perpetrators are properly punished.
“The masterminds behind those suspects must be punished even more severely than the suspects themselves, because they were the ones who ordered the suspects to commit such heinous acts upon lawmakers with privilege,” he said.
Defense lawyer Choung Choungy said the suspects should be charged with more serious crimes, including attempted murder, for the ferocity of the attacks.