With a small group of protesters promising to press ahead on Monday with a march marking the fourth “Black Monday” since a group of human rights officers were jailed, the government released a video online on Sunday night warning of the dire consequences of the “excessive use of rights.”
The release of the video, featuring photographs of Syria and Libya before and after civil wars rocked the countries in recent years, also comes as the opposition CNRP is threatening mass protests should deputy party leader Kem Sokha be arrested.
“This is the result of how the rights were misused,” a message says after an image of a knife-wielding man.
“The excessive use of rights will bring about destruction, broken families and loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, loss of habitat, bloodshed—and only [the] memory of pain prevails.”
A speech by Defense Minister Tea Banh is then played over images of people laboring under the Khmer Rouge.
“We’ve already encountered this kind of issue,” General Banh says. “The issue of color revolution comes in several forms. We want to make it clear that we will not allow it to take place in the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
The defense minister has said that both the Black Monday protesters and the CNRP have hopes of fomenting a color revolution, justifying state repression.
More than a dozen Black Monday protesters were arrested and released during the first two weeks of the campaign, in which people have worn black to show solidarity with the jailed rights workers.
A group of land rights activists said they were planning to mark the fourth Black Monday on Monday by marching in the morning from the Choam Chao roundabout near Phnom Penh International Airport to Prey Sar prison.
“We will go to rally at Choam Chao roundabout at 8:30 [a.m.] with about 30 people from evicted communities,” said Im Sreytouch, who is among the protest organizers. “And then we will hold banners and march to Prey Sar prison.”
“We are not afraid of arrest because we are not doing anything wrong,” she added, promising to continue the protests until the release of four officers from rights group Adhoc and a former officer at the NGO who is now a top election official.
The group was jailed for allegedly bribing a 25-year-old woman to deny an affair with Mr. Sokha, in a case widely seen as a politically motivated.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said that Black Monday protesters could expect more of the same from authorities if they continued their demonstrations.
“It is illegal and against the city’s rules,” he said. “We will use administrative measures and legal action as with the previous times, and if we find they have any material like microphones or banners, we will confiscate it.”
An otherwise peaceful Monday last week ended with state security guards descending on a candlelight vigil organized by activists, ripping up banners and tossing away lotus flowers and candles.