“Black Monday” activists tussled with dozens of police officers and government security guards on Monday after they were blocked while marching in support of National Election Committee official Ny Chakrya, who is facing charges in a civil defamation case widely believed to be politically motivated.
Now in its 11th week, participants in the Black Monday campaign have been calling for the release of Mr. Chakrya, the committee’s deputy secretary-general, and four officers from rights group Adhoc, for which Mr. Chakrya also used to work. All five were jailed on bribery charges in early May as part of the government’s investigation into claims that deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha took a mistress.
At about 8 a.m. on Monday, about a dozen land rights activists carrying banners and dressed in either black or white T-shirts gathered in the capital’s eviction-hit Borei Keila neighborhood and began making their way toward the Phnom Penh Municipal Court while dragging a cart carrying water and rice. About 30 minutes and half a kilometer later, police and Prampi Makara district security guards destroyed the banners and confiscated the cart.
“Are you Khmer or Yuon? Do you eat with a Yuon or Khmer salary? I want to ask you when Mr. Hun Sen will solve our Borei Keila issue,” protester Leng Thuok shouted at the officers, using an often-derogatory term for Vietnamese people.
Blocked for about half an hour, the protesters finally detoured down Street 336 but were again stopped, this time outside the district police station. Activists Im Srey Touch, Phok Sophin, Kim Sarann and Sea Nareth were briefly detained inside. When they were released, the protesters dispersed.
“They kicked us from behind, so we fell to the ground. When we fell on the ground, they dragged us like animals,” Ms. Sarann said.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada defended the blockade, saying that if authorities had not taken action, the protesters would have caused turmoil in the capital.
“If they were celebrating Black Monday, which is banned, and we had not dispersed them, it would have meant that we were also supporting Black Monday,” he said.
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