Family members as well as opposition CNRP lawmakers were denied access Tuesday to 23 unionists and protesters arrested in early January during protests for a higher minimum wage for garment workers that culminated in five people shot dead by military police.
A group of about 40 people, including family members of the 23 men, six CNRP senators and 14 other lawmakers-elect, traveled to Correctional Center 3 in Kompong Cham province to see the group, but were stopped from entering the prison, outside of which was a large police presence.
“We saw about 200 forces, including police and riot police equipped with guns and batons, and village security who wear soldier uniforms and have sticks in their hands [outside the prison]…. They put a lot of force at the location to intimidate and threaten them,” said An Phin, provincial monitor for rights group Adhoc.
Opposition lawmaker-elect Son Chhay said the visitors had no intention of causing trouble and questioned the show of force.
“They should not use force and power,” he said.
A prison official claimed the 23 were denied visitors because they were still undergoing questioning and because reports of the CNRP’s presence could cause a “riot” among other prisoners.
“We are following a court letter that does not allow the CNRP to meet [with the 23 prisoners] since the municipal judge is in the questioning process,” said Kea Sovanna, director of the prison
“We also had some problems with 1,400 prisoners who tried to break out of the prison when they heard the CNRP planned to visit,” he said, declining to elaborate.
A bail hearing for the prisoners is scheduled for February 11.