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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Tuesday ordered the country’s Police Commander in Chief Sao Sokha to apprehend any suspects involved in an alleged torture case that resulted in the death of a man who was detained for his participation in 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.

Hun Sen’s order to arrest those responsible came during a press event Tuesday.

“We need to arrest those involved with the torture,” said Hun Sen.

“They must be prosecuted. We cannot accept this. We must investigate to see the truth,” he said.

In an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service, the Police Commander in Chief said the military police have established a five-member joint committee of military and regular police, the courts, and the prison system to investigate the allegations of torture.

He said that anyone involved, regardless of their seniority, would be prosecuted, but also said he did not know how many were involved.

“We are still conducting an investigation. As we are in the investigation stage, we will provide more details following our investigation,” said Sao Sokha.

Fair investigation necessary

Am Sam Ath, the deputy director for the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO),  urged authorities to hold a fair investigation.

“We need to find out who was behind the torture,” he told RFA.

“[They] need to conduct a thorough investigation, he added.

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing two clients claiming to have witnessed Tuy Sros’ torture told RFA that he was in Banteay Meanchy province to submit court documents and defend his clients.

“I am meeting with my clients to collect evidence and witnesses,” Sam Tithseiha said.

Three others who were also detained filed a complaint at the court alleging that military police tortured Tuy Sros.

One of those witnesses, Him Kiri, told RFA that the three of them were assaulted by the provincial military police, and that he would inform his lawyers of the incident. He said they kicked him and he has not recovered from the assault yet.

“I’ve developed a painful cough and I have bruises on the left side of my ribs,” he said.

“I was beaten at the provincial military police’s headquarters,” said Him Kiri, adding he is not afraid to speak out because he has already been beaten.

Him Kiri confirmed that Tuy​ Sros died Jan. 1 when he was arrested and tortured to death at the prison.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Originally published by Radio Free Asia.