Amnesty Int’l Questions Foreign Protesters’ Detention

Amnesty International is “deeply concerned” by the detention of eight foreigners on Tuesday for protesting outside the donor meeting in Phnom Penh to draw attention to the conviction, many believe wrongly, of two men for killing union leader Chea Vichea in 2004.

“Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Cambodian au­thorities held and questioned people who had done nothing but peace­fully express an opinion,” Brit­tis Edman, a researcher for the London-based rights group’s South­east Asia Team, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

“We call on participants at the don­­or meeting to address the issue that the murder of Chea Vichea so painfully highlights: how the failings of Cambodia’s judiciary perpetuate impunity,” she added.

Police said Tuesday that they detained the Westerners after re­peatedly warning them to take down signs attesting to the innocence of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who are serving 20 years each in prison for the killing of the Free Trade Union leader Chea Vichea, and to stop blocking traffic when they halted their vehicles outside the Council for the De­velopment of Cambodia where the donor meeting was in progress.

Immigration police detained three Americans, two Canadians, one Briton, one Dane and one New Zealander for more than nine hours, accusing them of causing a public disturbance.

National Assembly and CPP Hon­orary President Heng Samrin claimed that the protestors had abused Cambodia’s sovereignty, and that they were linked to the political opposition.

“The international people want us to respect human rights, but they do not respect Cambodian law,” Heng Samrin said.

“They are opposition party people. They do not want the donors to give money to develop the country,” he said, though he did not name a specific political party.

Californian Steve Gourley, 40, one of the detainees and a member of the nameless rights coalition that organized Tuesday’s demonstration, and which made international news headlines following their detention, said that the group was politically independent.

“This is typical of how the government would try to politicize this,” he said.

Mu Sochua, SRP secretary-general, said the detainees were not connected to the SRP, but added that she supported their attempt to publicize Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun’s case.

“People across borders must help each other in upholding the declaration of human rights,” she said.


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