2 Teachers Detained at Pagoda Ceremony

Two teachers were arrested and briefly detained Saturday after they allegedly ignored police orders and attended a pagoda ground-breaking ceremony pre­sided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen in Baray district, Kom­pong Thom province.

Sun Thun and Hel Thol—both of whom are members of the Cambodian Independent Teach­ers’ Association and the Sam Rainsy Party—had plotted to disrupt the ceremony by shouting at the premier and therefore were barred from attending, Kom­pong Thom Provincial Dep­uty Police Chief Hang Sopem said Sunday.

Despite police orders, the pair attended the ceremony and were arrested and detained for about an hour Saturday evening, police said. No charges were filed, and the teachers apparently did not disrupt the ceremony.

“We didn’t allow them to participate in the ceremony, but they wanted to participate,” Hang Sopem said. “That is why we arrested them.”

Rong Chhun, teachers association president, charged that Sun Thun and Hel Thol were targeted by police because they have been recruiting for the association and encouraging people to vote in the upcoming general elections.

Sun Thun is head of the association’s Kompong Thom division.

“Police have abused their hu­man rights. This action will intimidate voters not to vote freely,” Rong Chhun said Sunday.

The Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights also condemned the arrests, alleging their motivation was to discourage Sam Rainsy Party voters. “If it is a public ceremony, all people should be allowed to freely participate. This is a discriminatory action made by authorities against the opposition party members, because the prime minister presided over the ceremony on behalf of the government,” CCHR Director Kem Sokha said.

In April, Kompong Thom authorities threatened to prevent association members from meeting, saying they could disrupt social order and needed permission from the Interior Ministry.

The teachers did meet, however, and elected Sun Thun president of the association’s Kompong Thom provincial branch.

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