The wife of a former council member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party on September 25 filed a lawsuit against a district security guard who hurled her to the ground during a protest calling for the release of her jailed husband.
Seng Chanthorn, 49, the wife of former Kampong Thom provincial council member Sun Thon, filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against security guard Chhoam Praseth, who she accused of using violence against her during a demonstration on September 4.
That day, a group of about 15 relatives of jailed former CNRP members rallied near the courthouse demanding the dismissal of the charges against the 17 who have been apprehended since January for their alleged involvement in a plot to topple the government.
According to a statement from rights group Licadho, Prampi Makara district guards had attempted to disband the peaceful demonstration outside the court.
As a number of security guards scuffled with the protesters, one guard violently threw Chanthorn on the ground, and she was rushed to Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital for treatment, the rights group said.
“I filed a lawsuit against Chhoam Praseth, who used violence against us, and I ask the court officials to penalize him according to the law,” Chanthorn said, emphasizing that she had been engaging in peaceful protest at the time the guards had turned violent.
“I never argued with him, but he hurled me onto the ground,” she said, explaining that she had sustained injuries to her shoulder and left rib.
“I think that he attempted to kill me,” Chanthorn said. “I hope the court upholds the law and that they find justice for me.”
Chanthorn’s lawyer Sam Sokong said he hoped the court would take action against Praseth.
“We have enough evidence of the incident, so the prosecutor has to charge the person who committed the offense in order to provide justice to the victim,” he said, adding that he had collected video footage, photographs, and witnesses testimony as evidence.
Prampi Makara District Governor Lim Sophea could not be reached for comment.
Phnom Penh City Hall Spokesman Met Measpheakdey said that citizens have the right to file a complaint, but that district authorities had already clarified the issue and reprimanded the guard.
“It is the right of the people to lodge a complaint, so I have no comment,” he said, adding that it was up to the court to decide whether to proceed with the case.
On September 4, the Prampi Makara district office issued a statement saying that Praseth had been educated and punished with a fine.
It said that the 15 demonstrators were gathering illegally on Monireth Boulevard in front of the municipal court and that it was necessary for guards to break up the gathering to maintain public safety and avoid traffic jams. An altercation ensued when protesters failed to disperse as ordered by the district guards.
“During the scuffle, security guard Chhoam Praseth took efforts to prevent protesters from moving forward which led to Ms. Seng Chanthorn accidentally falling to the ground,” the statement said.
The group of more than 20 supporters of the imprisoned former CNRP members have held regular demonstrations since June and have petitioned several embassies to seek help in securing their release. During the peaceful demonstrations, some among the group have been dragged, kicked and assaulted, according to Licadho.
Chanthorn’s husband Sun Thon, who is also a member of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, was among a group of four former opposition members to be detained on May 31 and June 1.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, welcomed the complaint filed by Chanthorn and called on the court to take legal action against the perpetrator.
“We are waiting to see whether the court will proceed with the case or not,” he said.
However, Sam Ath said he was doubtful that the case would go ahead, as previous cases had exposed a double standard in the court system.
“We have seen it is a slower procedure when demonstrators file a complaint, but it is fast when authorities, such as security guards, file a complaint against demonstrators,” Sam Ath said.
“If the court does not take action, it will become culturally acceptable to commit violence and face no penalty by the law,” he said.