Union leader rejects video, photo evidence

During his second day under questioning on charges of inciting violence and property damage at a January 2 protest, union leader Vorn Pao was presented with photographs showing his tuk-tuk packed with rocks, and a video of him calling on low-ranking police to turn their guns on their bosses if asked to shoot protesters. Mr. Pao, president of the Informal Democracy of Economic Association, suggested that soldiers put the rocks in his tuk-tuk, and rejected the use of the video, which was from a separate protest days earlier. … During the hearing, the prosecution also presented a video clip and several photos of Mr. Pao at a tense but peaceful garment worker rally in front of the Council of Ministers on December 30. In the clip, Mr. Pao could be seen and heard advising any police ordered by their superiors to point their guns at garment workers to point the weapons at their superiors instead. But Mr. Pao refused to confirm that the audio in the clip was accurate and challenged the court’s use of a video from December 30, when he was on trial for a protest on January 2. … In another room at the courthouse, hearings also resumed for the 13 men arrested on January 3 at a protest on Veng Sreng Street, where military police shot dead five garment workers after being pelted with rocks, metal bolts and crude Molotov cocktails. Witnesses for the defense all recounted stories of military police bursting into rooms and arresting people without cause or apprehending innocent people on the street. … Prosecutors showed the court a nearly 20-minute video clip, shot by security forces, showing protesters throwing rocks and vandalizing property. None of the 13 suspects appeared in the video, however, a fact included in a January 14 statement from the Ministry of Interior read out in court. A military police official and a lawyer for the prosecution nonetheless insisted that the 13 were engaged in the day’s violence. But Ham Sunrith, a lawyer for five of the suspects, pointed out that they had presented no evidence supporting their claim. …

Eang Mengleng and Khy Sovuthy