District security guards this morning arrested 11 political activists taking part in a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh against the imprisonment of 23 protesters who were beaten and arrested earlier this month.
The protesters, including union leader Rong Chhun and prominent Boeng Kak community activist Tep Vanny, had gathered in front of the embassy at 8:15 a.m. in defiance of a recent ban on public assembly put in place after a wave of violent suppression initiated by the CPP government at the beginning of the year.
At 8:30 a.m., the security guards, wearing full-faced black helmets, entered the crowd, surrounded Ms. Vanny and pulled her into a nearby unmarked white van before driving away.
The operation was repeated ten minutes later, with the government thugs hauling away Mr. Chhun in another van.
A number of activists from the city’s Boeng Kak community sought safety by moving closer to the U.S Embassy’s front gate. At 9 a.m., embassy staff negotiated with the security guards for the free exit of the women, who proceeded north on Monivong Boulevard.
The security guards formed a roadblock near Calmette Hospital, where municipal police arrived and began scuffling with the women. At 9:15 a.m., a group of the women were forced onto a municipal police truck that had arrived.
The remaining protesters, many crying, then proceeded toward to the gate of the nearby French Embassy.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that the protesters had been arrested for breaking the ban on public assembly.
“About ten have been arrested. We arrested them because the rally and the expression of their views impacts public order and public security,” Mr. Dimanche said.
“We sent them to municipal police headquarters, where they will be educated, and we will make an agreement,” before releasing the protesters, he explained.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor affairs program at the Community Legal Education Center, speaking from the front of the municipal police headquarters, said eleven people had been taken away by the district security police forces.
He said that in addition to Mr. Chhun and Ms. Vanny, the arrested were anti-eviction activists Song Sreyleap, Phan Chunreth, Bov Sorphea, Yorm Bopha, Em Sreytouch, Nguon Kimleng and Choung Sopheap, as well as Long Kimheang of the Housing Rights Task Force NGO, and Cheang Thida of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions.
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