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Abuse of power comes as no surprise

April 27, 2012

Yesterday, an amazing document appeared on the internet: the uncut footage from a surveillance camera in a hotel in Koh Kong, Cambodia, that shows how a member of the body guard of Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, beats up another hotel guest who had the nerve to knock on his door and ask for a necklace that he thought his wife had forgotten at the room which he had inhabited the night before.

The two-part video has a certain Abu-Ghraib–ness to it. It plays out like a scene in a stage drama, with the cast moving back and forth in the hallway of the hotel that the camera films in a flat, digital deep-focus shot from its elevated position.

The half-naked Bun Sokha, 38, deputy chief of staff of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit and a bunch of his goons first beat up the helpless men and then his friend and continue to do so, even when they fall on their knees and beg for mercy, then a man who might be a hotel security guard is manhandled. I do not see the electric batons that they supposedly used, but then again the quality of the footage is quite bad.

The fact that much of the sadistic violence seems to happen outside of the view of the mechanical eye of the camera adds to the gruesomeness of the video, as does the group of on-lookers who just loiter passively around at the scene.That the video with its pale blue hue has no sound adds to the uncanny atmosphere of the whole event as it stands in eery contrast to the violence and the drama of the scene. A particularly troubling and revealing scene at the end of the second video is how one of the goons hurries to a hotel room and comes back to bandage the foot of Bun Sokha who apparently hurt himself while kicking his victims around. And what exactly are they wiping off the floor with tissue?

Am I the only one, who has to think of the cruel violence that the “rich man” in the movie version of the Cambodian fairy tale “Tep Sodachan” displays at the end of this clip:

The video gives a startling insight in the mores and manners (or rather, lack thereof) of the shadowy, sinister crooks who are considered as “high-ranking people” in Cambodia. You rarely get to see them, as they mostly hide in their luxury villas behind high walls or behind the darkened windows of the SUVs who block the streets of Phnom Penh, and often behave as if they feel that they are above the law. Here, for once, their violence, their disregard for the people they are supposed to serve and their ridiculously inflated egos are in plain sight, thanks to the power of social media.

In the past, cases like that have been ignored  by the police or settled out of court with some meager compensation paid to the victims. It remains to be seen what is going to happen in this case, but at least this time, the culprits have been arrested and questioned by the police immediately.

Now, who is this Chanty Sothy, who has put this and other revealing videos on YouTube?

Update: Bun Sokha, the deputy chief of Hun Sen, who is depicted in this video, paid 5000 Dollars to his victims to have the teeth replaced that he kicked out, according to the Phnom Penh Post .

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