Government Is Watching You, Official Tells Protesters

Though a small group of “Black Monday” protesters went undisturbed during a brief protest in their neighborhood on Monday, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor warned that authorities were still monitoring them in order to compile evidence that could later be used in court.

The campaign, which limped into its 26th week, was launched in reaction to the arrest of four officers from rights group Adhoc and an election official who previously worked at the NGO.

Bov Sophea, center, speaks into a bullhorn during the latest ‘Black Monday’ protest in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Bov Sophea, center, speaks into a bullhorn during the latest ‘Black Monday’ protest in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

It has since dovetailed with other issues, including calls for a full investigation into the murder of political analyst Kem Ley and the release of land rights activist Tep Vanny.

After about 30 activists gathered in the eviction-hit Boeng Kak neighborhood at about 9 a.m. on Monday for the latest demonstration, deputy municipal governor Khuong Sreng said authorities were monitoring the protest.

“We are not the prosecutors, so we can’t find out if they have committed a crime or not—that’s the prosecutor,” he said. “However, every day we are keeping record of their activities.”

Government officials have previously said that taking part in a Black Monday protest was a crime in itself, equating the campaign to an “urban rebellion” and “color revolution.”

Bov Sophea, an activist who was sentenced to six days in prison for “insulting” officials during a cursing ceremony at a Black Monday protest in August, said authorities should be looking for real criminals.

“What is it in City Hall’s job that means they need to record our activities? They should go to record drug dealings or anarchic shootings,” Ms. Sophea said.

Dozens of activists turned out in various locations for the first Black Monday protest on May 9, leading to eight arrests. More arrests in ensuing weeks saw the number dwindle as the groups that launched the campaign backed away. Some weeks there have been no public protests.

Chan Puthisak, another Boeng Kak activist, said protest leaders were left with little choice but to keep the campaign close to home.

“Some residents are scared of the authorities,” he said. “So we decided to hold it in the community.”

odom@cambodiadaily.com

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