Filipinos Protest Duterte’s War on Drugs, Briefly

The protest was over almost as soon as it started, but a group of six Filipinos living in Cambodia appeared in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh long enough to air their message to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte: Stop the deadly war against drugs.

Mr. Duterte is set to arrive in Cambodia today for a two-day visit.

Filipinos protest Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on Monday morning, ahead of his scheduled arrival today for a two-day visit. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The protesters, who declined to provide their names citing security concerns, posed for photographs for about a minute, then handed copies of a statement to reporters and quickly left the scene of the demonstration.

“We would like to send a message to him and the Philippines,” said one protester, who was reached by telephone on Monday after the protest. “The war on drugs has been used as an excuse for extrajudicial killings.”

Since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency in July, more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-drug police operations and over 3,000 have been killed by vigilantes, according to a Reuters report. The president has dismissed claims that police are participating in extrajudicial killings.

According to the protesters’ statement, “Most of the dead come from the country’s poor on suspicion of being drug addicts or drug pushers. Many of them voluntarily surrendered, only to be arrested and killed in alleged shoot-outs with the police.”

Marking International Human Rights Day on Saturday, hundreds marched through Manila to protest the government’s anti-drug policies.

The Filipino protester in Phnom Penh said his group opposed two laws being considered by the Philippine Congress, which would lower the age of criminal liability from 12 to 9 years old and reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes, including drug offenses.

The Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to a request for comment.

Motorists drive past signs featuring photographs of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and King Norodom Sihamoni near Independence Monument in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

In October, Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government had no plans to reimplement capital punishment in Cambodia as a means to reduce the use and sale of illicit drugs.

“The Royal Government will not do it on this issue because the punishment of life imprisonment is enough for those who commit serious crimes,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech to graduates of the Royal University of Law and Economics.

The prime minister then called for authorities and armed forces at all levels “to act simultaneously to crack down on drugs being spread from one country to others.”

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry declined to comment on the Philippines’ anti-drug campaign, citing Cambodia’s policy of non-interference.

He referred questions about a deal on “Cooperation in Combating Transnational Crime,” expected to be signed by Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Duterte this week, to the Interior Ministry, where spokesmen could not be reached.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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