A Change of Guard

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Monday, 9 May 2016

NGO officials, activists arrested in 'Black Monday' protest crackdown

Manekseka Sangkum: It used to be the case that by chopping people's heads off, despots could at least stop people thinking. These days despots are much more civilised: they only have to throw people inside prisons like Prey Sar - in the majority of cases.

People protest the detention of four human rights workers and an election official on Monday morning near Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison. Pha Lina

BREAKING: NGO officials, activists arrested in 'Black Monday' protest crackdown
Mon, 9 May 2016
Chhay Channyda, Mech Dara and Ananth Baliga

Four NGO staffers and a quartet of land rights activists were arrested this morning as they made their way to join the so-called Black Monday Campaign in support of human rights workers imprisoned last week.

Sahmakum Teang Tnaut executive director Ee Sarom, Licadho deputy director Thav Kimsan and Borei Keila land activist Sar Sorn were arrested just two kilometers from Prey Sar prison – where four Adhoc officials are being held – which was fortified with hundreds of police officers.

The three have been taken to Dangkor district police station, with police officials refusing to disclose the reason for their arrest.

Two foreign consultants for Licadho, identified by a staffer from the organisation as Mathias Pfeifer and Anna Pettersson, were subsequently taken into custody outside the Dangkor police station and sent to the immigration police office opposite the Phnom Penh International Airport.

Three Boeung Kak lake activists, meanwhile, were arrested separately as they attempted to leave the Boeung Kak area and have been sent to Daun Penh district jail, City Hall administrative director Mean Chanyada confirmed.

"Police arrested six people and now they are questioning them," he said, without commenting on the reasons for the arrest.

The arrests follow a Sunday warning by the Interior Ministry, which released a statement saying protestors were “inciting” the Black Monday Campaign and warned that authorities at all levels were charged with enforcing the law in order to maintain “peace, political stability and social order.”

Launched by rights groups and NGOs, the campaign is asking supporters to wear black every Monday until the Adhoc staffers and National Election Committee deputy secretary general Ny Chakrya are released. All five were charged after allegedly conspiring to bribe an alleged mistress of CNRP acting president Kem Sokha to lie to investigators.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at Licadho, said a group of protesters were heading towards Prey Sar when they were stopped by a heavy deployment of police and despite attempts to negotiate with the police to allow them to protest outside the prison, the police proceeded to make three arrests.

“We don’t know why they detained them,” he said. “We were going to CC2 [another name for Prey Sar] and they blockaded the road and we tried to negotiate with them.”

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