PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian court Wednesday indicted three men in the mob beating of two opposition lawmakers outside of the National Assembly last week, which left one of the lawmakers knocked out cold.
Rights groups have demanded an independent investigation into the assault that appeared to have been carried out by supporters of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the country's longtime authoritarian leader.
The three suspects, who police say turned themselves in Tuesday and confessed, were charged with two counts of intention to commit violence and intention to damage property. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, said Meas Chan Piseth, a prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The suspects were identified as Chay Sarith, 33, Mao Hoeun, 34, and Suth Vanny, 45.
Lawmakers Nhoy Chamreoun and Kong Sakphea were dragged from their cars and beaten after leaving an Oct. 26 session of the assembly. Both men were repeatedly punched and kicked and their cars were damaged.
They were attacked by members of a pro-government mob protesting outside the assembly to demand that Kem Sokha, the deputy leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, step down as the parliamentary vice president. Many in the mob were wearing pieces of red cloth, a trademark of vigilantes connected to the ruling party.
Kem Sokha has been more aggressive than party leader Sam Rainsy in his criticism of Hun Sen, who has been in power for almost three decades and is known for intimidating his opponents.
"We hope there will be a proper inquiry to find justice," Sam Rainsy posted on Facebook late Tuesday, calling for an investigation into the attack to be carried out "properly, professionally and independently."
The calls for an outside investigation were echoed by Human Rights Watch, which said in a statement that Sakphea's nose was broken and his right eardrum torn, requiring an operation, while Chamreoun's right wrist and nose were broken and he underwent a five-hour eye operation due to injuries from the beating.
In the past two years in Cambodia, gangs of man with sticks, staves and other homemade weapons have often confronted protests by the opposition and other dissidents, while police stand aside.