Protesters Call for Release of Detained Activists

About 100 protesters gathered outside the National Assembly on Friday morning to call for lawmakers to intervene following the recent spate of arrests involving activists, monks and opposition officials.

The group called for the release of the 15 arrested people, including 11 who have already been tried and sentenced to a year in jail, saying they had not committed any crimes but were simply trying to exercise their right to freedom of expression. 

Monk Sim Sovandy joins a protest outside the National Assembly on Friday to call for the release of activists, monks and opposition figures who have been arrested and detained this week. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Monk Sim Sovandy joins a protest outside the National Assembly on Friday to call for the release of activists, monks and opposition figures who have been arrested and detained this week. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“Please, both parties of the Na­tional Assembly, intervene in this case,” Yorm Bopha, a well-known com­munity activist from Boeng Kak, cried out at the protest. “We are all hungry for justice and we want to live in freedom.”

Vann Narith, a CNRP lawmaker who accepted a petition from the pro­test­ers on behalf of his party, pro­mised that his party would push the government on human rights issues.

“Even though I encourage our people to retain this culture [of pro­test­ing], please don’t create any violence,” he said.

CPP lawmaker Loak Kheng, who also visited the protesters, pledged to take the groups’ concerns to the CPP president of the Na­tional Assembly, Heng Samrin.

“The National Assembly will invite Phnom Penh governor [Pa Socheatvong] through [Interior Minister] Sar Kheng to collect all their stories to discuss together to solve these issues for our people,” he said.

U.S.-based advocacy group Hu­man Rights Watch has condemned the recent wave of ar­rests, likening the government’s crackdown to “a dictatorship, not a de­mocracy.”

“The Cambodian government’s latest crackdown on peaceful protest makes a mockery of promises of dem­­ocratic reform,” the organization’s Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement released Friday.

“The country’s donors should publicly condemn this escalating wave of abuse. Failure to speak out will only encourage the ruling party to further close political space and block any hopes for progress to­ward a genuine multi-party de­mocracy.”

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