Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered national military police commander Sao Sokha to find and arrest the people who beat five land activists in detention in Banteay Meanchey, leading to the death of one man on Jan 1.
According to the activists, Tuy Sros, 34, and four others were arrested on Dec. 28 while protesting in front of the provincial hall over a land dispute. They were allegedly beaten during their detention at the provincial military police headquarters. On Jan. 1, Sros died while being transported to a hospital.
Speaking on Tuesday evening at an annual gathering with journalists, Hun Sen said he had ordered the president of the governmental Human Rights Committee, Keo Remy, and Sokha to create a committee to investigate the death.
“If it is true, the people who beat someone, causing death, must be arrested and punished,” Hun Sen said. “We cannot accept this case.”
He added that journalists must not be afraid to report the truth of such crimes so that they can be reduced in the future.
Sokha told CamboJA News that his officials were working on the case. “We are doing it,” Sokha said, but he declined to comment in more detail.
Born Bin, Banteay Meanchey provincial military police commander, could not be reached for comment.
According to a complaint sent by three of the surviving detainees to rights group Adhoc on Jan. 10, military police officials kicked and beat all five from their arrests until Dec. 30. They were sent to the provincial court on the 31st and moved to the provincial prison, it says.
“Those provincial military police officials, including Sar Bunthoeun, deputy military police commander of Banteay Meanchey province, kicked and beat us,” the complaint says. “On Dec. 29, from around 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Dec. 30, the drug rehabilitation group, under Chhoy Ratana, beat Tuy Sros until he was unconscious three times and around 8 p.m. on Dec. 30, they beat Sros unconscious three times again.”
The complaint, which seeks legal help from Adhoc, adds that the three activists are demanding $600,000 total in compensation.
Nov Noeun, 62, one of the surviving activists, said on Wednesday that he had lost three teeth at the hands of military police officers. “A military police officer kicked my stomach three times and punched my mouth,” he said.
Soum Chankea, Adhoc coordinator in Banteay Meanchey, said an investigation was vital.
“Authorities must open an investigation into this case to find justice for the victims,” Chankea said. “These were rude, inhuman acts.”