Police Disperse Monks; Marches Called Off

As political leaders arrived at a multi-party summit in Siem Reap on Tuesday morning, Phnom Penh police dispersed a small group of monks, supporters and onlookers gathering for a peace march in the capital.

The monks’ first effort at a rally since protests stopped more than a week ago lasted only 30 minutes. Almost as soon as Buddhist flags and banners saying “this is a nonviolent march for peace” were passed out, municipal police on bikes and trucks zoomed in.

The collection of about 15 monks, supporters and onlookers in front of the Royal Palace quickly scattered.

Plans to continue peace marches daily until Sun­day were called off later Tuesday because monks feared for their safety, said Veng Sovath, one of the monks who organized the march.

The monks, mostly from Wat Ounalom, began to gather at the Royal Palace at 7:30 am.

Five teams of police from Don Penh district’s Flying Tiger unit, a group of specially trained police on motorcycles, arrived with two trucks of municipal police and one truck of military police to clear the group.

In 10 minutes, most of the people had gone. Passersby drove off on motos. The monks walked off to their wats. A few remained to fold up flags and banners, which armed police then confiscated.

“We dispersed the group and we will come back,” said Tean Boroth, one of the Flying Tiger unit chiefs for Don Penh district. Police were stationed there for part of the day to make sure no one returned, he said.

“We are the legal authority and we do not permit them to gather because it is illegal,” he said. The municipality rejected a request from the monks on Friday for a peace march this Sunday.

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