The CNRP yesterday threw itself behind the “Black Monday” campaign seeking the release of jailed human rights and election officials on Monday, drawing a warning from the government for supporting the peaceful campaign.
The party’s endorsement came as an activist was arrested and later released and police in Phnom Penh blocked about a dozen protesters and ripped banners, including photographs of political activist Kem Ley, who was assassinated last month.
In recent weeks, the long-running protests appealing for the release of Adhoc workers and an official from the National Election Commission have dovetailed with calls for a full investigation into Kem Ley’s murder.
Speaking outside the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh, opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said his colleagues would wear black clothing to work every Monday, but would keep their support to the confines of their head offices.
“Today, we call for the Black Monday campaign, because political prisoners and human rights defenders were sentenced unfairly by the court,” Mr. Chhay Eang said. “Our campaign at headquarters—we hope the government will see and find solutions for them.”
The government has suppressed the monthslong Black Monday protests, labeling the campaign an illegal attempt at a “color revolution.”
Contacted after he posted a warning on Facebook that the government could “take strong action” against the CNRP for supporting the campaign, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the threat only applied if the politicians took to the streets.
“We are not surprised by that—the CNRP is behind that movement. They have no choice. They had to do that in order to get the people to support their ideas against the government,” Mr. Siphan said.
“Eng Chhay Eang can do whatever he likes in his apartment,” he added. “But if they demonstrate on the streets and disturb the public order and do not cooperate with local authorities, that is different.”
The campaign’s 14th week saw familiar scenes as around a dozen activists were blocked by Prampi Makara district police as they attempted to march down Street 211 toward the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
After a scuffle, in which police tore banners with slogans urging the release of the rights workers and justice for Kem Ley, land rights activist Sar Son was thrown into the back of a truck and taken to the district police station.
Upon being released in the late afternoon, Ms. Son vowed to continue protesting.
“They said if I continue to do it, next time they will arrest me. They can warn as they want,” she said. “But I will keep doing it for justice.”
(Additional reporting by George Wright)