Cambodia Must Investigate Protest Killings by Security Forces

Press Release
January 3, 2014

Cambodia Must Investigate Protest Killings by Security Forces

Contact: Natalie Butz, nbutz@aiusa.org, 703-389-1723, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Cambodian authorities must hold security forces to account for today’s killing of at least four people at a protest by garment workers that turned violent in the capital Phnom Penh, Amnesty International said.

“Today’s tragic violence must be investigated and those responsible for deaths and injuries held to account,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher. “The Cambodian government has to rein in its security forces. Today’s events sadly echo other recent incidents - on at least four occasions in the past few months, security forces have used unnecessary or excessive force, including live ammunition, against protesters and bystanders.

“As with so many human rights violations in Cambodia, the lack of accountability for these incidents is a reminder of the pervasive culture of impunity in the country. There must be root and branch change to ensure the perpetrators of violations are brought to book.”

Under international law, if an assembly turns violent, security forces are only allowed to use such force as is strictly necessary for the performance of their duty. The intentional lethal use of firearms can only be justified if it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

In recent weeks, thousands of people have been protesting in Cambodia over garment factory wages and the political situation following the disputed election in July 2013.

“All sides need to exercise restraint, particularly given the current levels of tension in Cambodia,” said Abbott. “The broad protests now seem larger than ever before - we certainly haven't seen anything like this for over 15 years.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.