Two political activists were injured by district security guards outside the Daun Penh district office Monday morning after a protest to free 21 protesters beaten and imprisoned during a strike in January turned into an effort to reclaim a confiscated protest drum.
The protesters, dressed in white and holding small plaques bearing the names and occupations of the 21 people being held in a high-security prison in Kompong Cham prison, had begun the day in front of the Supreme Court demanding the release of the detainees.
With Prime Minister Hun Sen attending an event at the nearby Chaktomuk Conference Hall, a large security presence greeted and scuffled with the protesters, who numbered at most 150. A group of Daun Penh security guards, masked by their customary black motorcycle helmets, seized a drum being beaten loudly by the protesters.
Marching to Wat Ounalom on Sisowath Quay with a small group of police watching on, the protesters did three loops of a small triangular traffic refuge. They then freed 21 caged birds and made their way to the Daun Penh office to demand their drum back.
At the office, the district security guards, still wearing helmets, sought to prevent the protesters from approaching the building.
“The authorities are not hostage to you,” a loudspeaker held by the security guards blared. “This road, no one can block it!”
In an ensuing scuffle at about 11 a.m., one of the guards used his walkie-talkie to knock 40-year-old housing rights activist Phuong Sopheap in the nose. Another kicked Thlang Yan, 50, in her right thigh.
“It is brutal that the security guards used violence on these residents because we have just came to get back our drum—we did not come to protest here,” said Ms. Sopheap.
Kim Vutha, chief of the Daun Penh security guards, said that the minor clashes had only broken out in an attempt to ensure security.
“No one ordered them to fight and they were just scuffling with each other,” he said, making no mention of the expropriated drum.
District officials returned the drum at about 3 p.m.