A commission set up by Cambodia’s National Military Police heard testimony from five witnesses Thursday in an alleged torture case that resulted in the death this month of a man who was detained for joining a land-rights protest.
Tuy Sros, a resident of the Ou Chrov district of Banteay Meanchey province, died in police custody on Jan. 1 after being held from Dec. 28 to Dec. 31 following the protest in which five other villagers were also detained.
Five witnesses, including four who say they were also tortured and Tuy Sros’s widow, testified before the investigation commission on Thursday.
One man, An Roun, said he had been interrogated for the entire day at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Military Police headquarters by five officials from the National Military Police.
“The officials told us that they will question some officials who tortured us in the prison, and we were requested not to get involved in the questioning,” he said.
An Roun said that he and the three fellow torture victims truthfully described the torture at the hands of the provincial military police officials that led to Tuy Sros’ death, and that the Commission promised to continue researching the death of the victim with relevant institutions.
Another victim who said he was tortured with the group last month, Nov Noeun, said that when he was being questioned, there were no military police officers present in the room. He added that the officers used the victims’ answers to questions to forge a statement without coercion.
“I have asked all the commission officials to bring our words to Samdech Hun Sen to help in finding justice for us, because authorities arrested us without us having done anything wrong,” he said.
“The authorities accused villagers of grabbing state land then they arrested people and we are not happy as they used violence when we were in the prison,” Nov Noeun added.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the arrest of those responsible for the torture.
“They must be prosecuted. We cannot accept this. We must investigate to see the truth,” he said at a media event.
The witnesses said that Tuy Sros became seriously ill during the interrogations and authorities sent him to the provincial prison and he died a day later.
RFA sought comment from the National Military Police’s Investigation Commission Chief Neang Sochivy, but was unable to reach him.
Am Sam Ath, an investigator at the local human rights group Licadho, said he was concerned about the interviews of the victims, because they were taking place at the provincial military police headquarters where the men were tortured.
“I think the commission should choose somewhere else to question the witnesses because they are afraid to speak the truth at the provincial military police headquarters,” he said.
“If they are afraid of some things, they will not dare to talk because they are worried about their safety. Even if we offer protection, they might find it difficult to answer the truth,” he added.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pheap Aun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.