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Civilian shot dead by Cambodian military police while protesters clash with security forces

Protesters heading to Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, 15 September 2013
Protesters heading to Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, 15 September 2013

CCHR

Unrest broke out in Phnom Penh on the afternoon of 15 September 2013 as tensions rose during the mass demonstration organized by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party ("CNRP"). The demonstration was the first of a planned three-day demonstration to call for a thorough and independent investigation into alleged irregularities surrounding the national elections in July. The official election results were announced last week awarding victory to the long-ruling Cambodian People's Party ("CPP"), albeit with considerable gains won by the opposition. The opposition CNRP have refused to accept the results and have threatened to boycott parliament.

An estimated 70,000 CNRP supporters gathered at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on the morning of 15 September and marched towards the Royal Palace despite restrictions placed on the demonstration by the Ministry of Interior, which dictated that no more than 10,000 people should attend and that the gathering must remain within the confines of Freedom Park. A group of protesters remained at the Royal Palace and clashed with police and security forces who had set up barricades at the site. Smoke bombs, tear gas and high-pressure water cannons were used on the crowds by security forces in an attempt to disperse protesters. Three protesters were confirmed injured by the first aid group on site and one policeman. The protesters later returned to Freedom Park after CNRP leader Sam Rainsy arrived at the site of the clash and addressed the crowds, calling for peace.

CCHR President Ou Virak states:

"Today's clash between frustrated protesters and security forces near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh just goes to show that tensions are running extremely high and that there is a risk of elevated violence over the next two days. In order to keep the peace, the authorities must ensure that law enforcement personnel operate calmly and prioritize the safety of the protesters. The CNRP leadership must also ensure that their supporters act peacefully and lawfully. It is also perhaps time that the caretaker CPP government start paying attention to the demands of the protesters and come to a fair resolution of this current political deadlock."

Civilian shot dead by military police

It was subsequently confirmed that one civilian was shot dead near Kbal Thnal bridge in Phnom Penh as clashes continued between the authorities and a group of yet unidentified protesters. Many gunshots were fired into the air by military police and protesters attempted to smash a barrier in the middle of the road. A journalist from Voice of Democracy and human rights monitors from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") were chased from the site by security forces and several people in the crowd were injured. The civilian was shot in the head in the midst of the unrest but exact circumstances are thus far unclear.

On 15 September, the CCHR President added:

"I'm deeply saddened by the news that a civilian has been shot dead in Phnom Penh in the midst of today's unrest. I urge the authorities to ensure that this tragedy is an isolated incident. The CNRP needs to call on supporters to act calmly and the caretaker CPP government must intervene to prevent and punish the use of such unacceptable force by police and military. Cambodia has come such a long way since the election related violence of previous years and thus far demonstrations by the opposition party and their supporters have been commendably peaceful - this progress now risks being undone. As demonstrations are planned to continue tomorrow [16 September], all stakeholders must ensure that peace is upheld. Our thoughts are with the family of the victim at this tragic time."

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