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Opposition official charged over 2015 protest

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
An official examines the complaint against Chao Veasna. Supplied

An opposition deputy commune chief was detained and charged by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court yesterday for his involvement in a protest at the Poipet border crossing in 2015.
Ke Samphors, a provincial CNRP vice-president, said the court decided to detain Chao Veasna at 12:40pm after a summons was issued by investigating judge Ek Poliphil.
The court charged Mr. Veasna with incitement, conspiring for intentional damage with aggravating circumstances and destruction of public property.
It was the third time Mr. Veasna, a CNRP official from the Sam Rainsy Party and deputy chief of Poipet commune, had been summoned over the protest.
“Mr. Veasna was not involved in the protest with the handcart pullers. He just went to monitor the situation as a commune official only,” Mr. Samphors said.
He said the decision to detain him was politically motivated because Mr. Veasna was popular and standing as a candidate in upcoming commune elections, adding that there was no evidence to arrest him.
“Other parties may be afraid of Mr. Veasna’s candidacy, taking legal measures to pressure and block the main opposition candidates. It shows that this case is related to politics rather than legal aspects,” he said.
CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang posted on his Facebook page yesterday that Mr. Veasna had been detained.
“The court in my country detains innocent people like animals,” he said.
Judge Poliphil could not be reached for comment.
Sum Chankea, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the court’s decision was made based on a complaint by Poipet City governor Ngor Meng Chroun.
The complaint accused Mr. Veasna and Mang Puthy, the head of a labor group primarily comprised of tuk-tuk and moto-taxi drivers, as the perpetrators while they monitored the protest together on behalf of the authorities.
“The court should review and reconsider the case as to why one of them was detained while some police who attacked the protesters were not detained,” Mr. Chankea said.
On May 25, 2015, about 150 porters clashed with police over higher customs duties in front of the Poipet Customs and Excise office. Seven vehicles belonging to the Customs and Excise office were damaged along with other public property. Military police broke up the protest by firing shots into the air.
Those charged in the case include 15 porters, Mr. Veasna and Mr. Puthy, the director of the Cambodia Informal Economic Workers Association.
Mr. Puthy was released on parole last month in a separate case after being detained for several weeks on charges of deliberately driving his SUV into Pailin deputy immigration police chief Chhean Piseth during a border confrontation in December.
The case was ridiculed online and widely deemed a farce as video suggested that Mr. Piseth fell on his own accord.

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