Arrests Over Petition to Free Rights Workers

Two opposition CNRP activists were arrested in Kompong Thom province on Thursday while collecting thumbprints calling for the release of jailed human rights activists and opposition officials, a district official said.

Since imprisoning four senior officers from human rights group Adhoc and a senior election official earlier this month, the government has launched a wave of legal action and intimidation to suppress campaigns calling for their freedom.

Prasat Balaing district governor Touch Sokha said opposition activists Phon Sovannara and Lanh Heng were arrested for “inciting the people” of Sala Visay commune by collecting thumbprints to send to King Norodom Sihamoni requesting his intervention in the case.

“We detained them because they incited the people and collected their thumbprints,” Mr. Sokha said.

“I told them that they cannot do that because it’s in the court’s hand,” he said, adding that the pair was released after agreeing not to continue their petitioning.

“We just educated them and asked them to make the contract. Next time, if they do not follow us, we will take action against them,” he said. “We will force them to be responsible with laws.”

Sun Chanthy, head of the CNRP’s provincial executive committee, said it was the third time that police had targeted opposition activists in Kompong Thom this week; on Wednesday, two men had petitions calling for the release of the rights workers confiscated. “It’s not only in Sala Visay commune that was prevented by authorities, it also happened in Stong district’s Msa Krang commune and Banteay Stong commune. They threatened and confiscated the petitions,” he said.

Provincial activists are attempting to collect 300,000 thumbprints by Wednesday, Mr. Chanthy said, adding that they had yet to tally the total number collected so far.

Mam Sonando, the popular owner of Beehive Radio and president of the Beehive Democratic Society Party, who was imprisoned on seemingly political charges in 2012, announced his intention to join the campaign.

In a letter to Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong on Wednesday, he informed City Hall of his plan to hold a rally in Freedom Park calling for the Anti-Corruption Unit to drop the charges against the human rights officers.

“I am Mam Sonando. As a people’s representative who used to be a victim of injustice, I inform to his excellency that on July 9, 2016 I will lead less than 200 protesters to rally at Freedom Park,” the letter said.

City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said a meeting would be set up with Mr. Sonando to discuss the planned demonstration “as soon as possible.”

The four jailed human rights workers and the election official, along with a U.N. employee, were charged with bribery over their alleged role in a sex scandal involving deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha. Human rights groups have blasted the case as an attempt by the ruling CPP to silence its critics.

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