Authorities arrested four people outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday morning, including an activist monk, who were peacefully protesting against the arrest of seven women demonstrating in front of City Hall on Monday.
The seven women arrested Monday had dragged a bed frame onto Monivong Boulevard to demand that the city drain the filthy floodwater that has been standing inside some of their homes in the Boeng Kak neighborhood since Thursday.
The women were accused of violating the country’s Traffic Law and had been brought to the municipal court Tuesday morning for questioning.
About 20 relatives, neighbors and fellow activists had gathered outside the court to protest their arrests and demand their release when four of them were also arrested.
The four included activist monk Soeung Hai, who was seen being hit by authorities just prior to his arrest; Boeng Kak resident Heng Pich; Boeng Kak evictee Im Srey Touch; and Puong Sopheap of the Thma Koul neighborhood near the Phnom Penh International Airport.
Police told the demonstrators that they had no right to gather in front of the court and gave them 20 minutes to clear out. When the protesters refused to move, the police and Prampi Makara district security guards made the arrests.
Deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin said the four had merely been detained, not arrested, but failed to explain the distinction.
“We did not arrest them, but we detained them, because they interfered with the work of the municipal court,” he said. “We will follow the procedures and send them to the police station.”
Some 3,000 families have been evicted from Boeng Kak—many say illegally—to make way for CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s real estate project, sparking countless protests over the past few years. Some residents of Thma Koul have also been facing the threat of eviction.