Police Arrest Four as Black Monday Campaign Continues

Four black-clad women were bundled kicking and screaming into police trucks on Monday, marking yet another “Black Monday” protest, as the campaign to have four rights workers and an election official released from prison entered its seventh week.

At about 9 a.m., five activists from eviction-hit communities congregated near Phnom Penh International Airport in Pur Senchey district as dozens of police and district security guards surrounded the area.

Members of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community hold a vigil yesterday evening to mark the seventh “Black Monday” since four human rights workers and an election official were jailed on bribery charges widely seen as politically motivated. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Members of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community hold a vigil yesterday evening to mark the seventh ‘Black Monday’ since four human rights workers and an election official were jailed on bribery charges widely seen as politically motivated. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Around half an hour later, the protesters began to march on surrounding streets to demand the release of four officers for local rights group Adhoc and an election official jailed for allegedly bribing a mistress of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha to deny the affair.

After marching for about 2 km, security guards jumped out of trucks and blocked their path, ripping up banners before arresting the four.

“Please Samdech Hun Sen, release the rights group officials. When they are released we will stop dressing in black to protest,” Im Srey Touch, who was also arrested at the second Black Monday demonstration last month, shouted while being dragged onto a truck.

Ngov Nary, Chray Nim and Yrin Srin, together with Ms. Srey Touch, were detained at the Kakab commune police station throughout the day.

Khim Sunsoda, the deputy district governor who led the arrests, said the protesters had not requested permission to demonstrate.

“When they do this it causes social disorder and turmoil when they dress in black and hold the banners along the way,” Mr. Sunsoda said.

“The protesters had the same faces, and we have had contact with them many times already. Now we do not know what to do with them anymore, so we decided to send the report to the upper levels for a final decision,” he added.

Contacted in the evening, City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said all four had been released but declined to comment further.

Ms. Nary confirmed she was released at about 6:15 p.m. after signing contracts agreeing to stop protesting—contracts that the group have signed and ignored on numerous occasions during the latest campaign and previous protests for other causes.

“They claimed that next week if we continue to dress in black and join the protest without their permission they will arrest us and send us to the court,” Ms. Nary said.

“I think we have not done anything wrong because there are no laws that say we cannot dress in black,” Ms. Nary said, adding she was undecided on whether to protest next week.

A separate Black Monday vigil involving about 40 people was held in the Boeng Kak community at about 5 p.m. and ended peacefully as security forces, who have disbanded such vigils in recent weeks, dispersed amid a heavy downpour.

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