Human rights officials are investigating reports that 16 people were arrested in the northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey on Thursday for alleged political demonstrations.
General Prum Moronak, deputy commander of Military Region 5 based in Battambang town, told the Khmer-language daily newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea that military police arrested 16 people for trying to disarm government units and “gathering to create anarchic activity.”
The gathering was an effort to “incite the people and encourage the armed forces to defect from the Cambodian government,” Prum Moronak is quoted as telling the newspaper.
Human rights officials said the 16 people were reportedly moved to Battambang town Friday. Details remain sketchy and have not yet been confirmed independently, human rights officials said Sunday. Battambang’s Police Chief Chan Kosal and the province’s Chief of Courts Nil Non could not confirm the reports because they had not been to work but said they had heard of them.
A Thursday fax from a group claiming to be the Cambodian Freedom Fighters said they had organized demonstrations against Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and the current government in Malai district and Komrieng district Wednesday.
Not much is known about the Freedom Fighters except that it claims to be politically neutral and is based on the Thai-Cambodia border. The group’s commanders are listed as Colonel Pich Serey Roth and Brigadier General Dul Saroeun, a Khmer Rouge commander in division 519. Last year, Dul Saroeun’s unit worked with resistance commander Nhiek Bun Chay.
The statement said the demonstrators called for the removal of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and the installation of “clean leaders” for the promotion of democracy in Cambodia.
The protesters allegedly included civilians and RCAF troops, the statement said.
On Thursday morning, about 100 government troops dispersed the protesters, the statement said.
Under the orders of Khmer Rouge defector General Sok Pheap, now a deputy commander for Region 5, former Khmer Rouge troops from division 21 went to suppress the “neutral troops,” Rasmei Kampuchea stated. About 50 weapons were confiscated, the Khmer-language newspaper reported.
(Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)