Most of the 29 protesters detained this week were “educated” during interrogation, and eight face preliminary charges of using illegal weapons such as slingshots, authorities said Wednesday.
The eight were charged under an Untac provisional law, said Chin Chiva, a municipal prosecutor. A judge now will decide whether they will continue to be held in jail while their case is investigated, he said.
Adhoc, a local human rights group, said one was a 15-year-old who has been turned over to social services.
Fifteen other protesters were freed on Tuesday evening after being “educated,” said Neth Savoeun, municipal police commissioner.
During questioning that lasted an average of two to three hours, the mostly teen-age protesters were told to follow the advice of their parents, rather than participate in demonstrations, he said.
Essentially, they were told: “Don’t be deceived again by the leaders of the protest,” Neth Savoeun said.
Also, those detained included two foreigners who agreed to leave the country, two policemen and two soldiers, officials said.
Meanwhile, both the UN and Amnesty International issued statements expressing concern about the arrests.
Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia, noted that while in some instances demonstrators have been armed with slingshots or rocks, by and large the protests were peaceful. The reason for the arrests “is therefore unclear,” he wrote.
Amnesty International said in a Tuesday statement that it “feared for the safety of dozens of people who have been arrested in Phnom Penh in the last 10 days.” The group said it believes “they are at risk of torture, ill-treatment and possible ‘disappearance.’”
An Adhoc investigator said Wednesday he was told that many of those detained this week were treated roughly by police at the time of their arrest, but apparently treated adequately while under detention.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak had given his assurances Monday that the detainees wouldn’t be mistreated. The government maintains that the 29 arrests were the first since the opposition demonstrations began.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Smith)