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Victims of Bridge Violence File Complaint Against Police

An injured protester of Cambodia's opposition party is carried to a hospital near Royal Palace during a gathering in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Riot police fired smoke grenades and water cannons at rock-throwing protesters Sunday as a new wave of demonstrations against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government kicked off with a vow to protest until the nation’s post-election deadlock is resolved. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
PHNOM PENH - The wife of a man killed during a police crackdown at Chbar Ampov bridge in Phnom Penh has lodged an official complaint against the authorities.

Sitting in front of her husband’s photograph, as incense sticks and candles burned at her small house, Cheav Sokvy, wife of victim Mao Sokchan, said she already filed a complaint to the courts.

“I want to find justice for my husband, who was killed unreasonably,” she said.

Mao Sokchan, a 29-year-old construction worker, was shot to death while sitting on his motorbike during a police crackdown on the crowded bridge.

Police had erected barricades in response to opposition protests in the city, jamming traffic for hours, until angry motorists began removing them.

Mao Sokchan was killed in an ensuing clash, but his wife, Cheav Sokvy, says he was not a demonstrator.

An additional 10 people were injured when police clashed with motorists who were angered by barricades at the bridge and attempted to tear them down.

Lying on a bed at Calmette Hospital, Om Sokkhheang, 27, a laborer, said he was shot in the leg by police, as he was helping others.

“The authorities shot everyone as if we were animals, not to scare us but intentionally to kill us,” he said. “I ask human rights organizations to help find justice for me. I am innocent. Why did they shot me? I want the perpetrators to be held responsible.”

Sok Vannak, 21, was shot in his left cheek.

“At that time, I was trying to find my brother, and then I was shot,” he said. “I want whoever shot me held responsible. But I do not know who I should file a complaint against or how to do it.”

Kheng Tito, a spokesman for the national police, denied authorities had used their firearms to contain the crowd.

“There was no order to kill people, and there was only an order to protect security at that chaotic site,” he said. “That’s why we are conducting a joint investigation to identify those who shot the people. The security forces had no weapons, just batons and shields, because we knew the people had no weapons. The ones who shot the people must be punished by law.”

At least six people were arrested and are being held on charges related to the clash, officials said. They could face up to five years in prison, for the use of intentional violence and destruction of public property.

But the courts do not have a strong record of convicting police and other public officials in shooting crimes. In a crackdown on villagers in Kratie province in May 2012, a 14-year-old girl was shot and killed. No one has been arrested for the crime. In February 2012, Chhouk Bandith, former governor of Bavet city, Svay Rieng province, was accused by witnesses of firing into a crowd of demonstrating garment workers, injuring three. He remains at large.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licahdo, said these are indicators of a culture of impunity.

“The perpetrators will dare the do the same again, as nobody will punish them, so an independent investigation needs to be undertaken to identify the wrongdoers to be punished by law,” he said.