Group of Rights Protesters Continue to Rally in Phnom Penh

A small group of protesters forcibly removed from the park opposite the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday night continued to call for the government to step down Wednesday, this time rallying in front of the French Embassy and marching around Phnom Penh.

The group of about 12 mostly elderly people were taken to a pagoda in Russei Keo district on Tuesday night by Daun Penh security guards after spending most of International Human Rights Day stationed outside the U.S. Embassy.

A representative of the group, 64-year-old Keo San, who also gave his name as Sbai Veng, said: “The authorities wanted to keep our loudspeaker, but we could not let them do it, and if they came to take it we would fight them back, because it is the only way that we could spread our view.

“They said that our march is illegal and told us to stop marching. They are not allowing us to get to our destination and want to take our loudspeaker, but we do not agree, and if they want it they will have to kill us first,” he added.

The group claims to be aligned with the CNRP, though the party’s head of public affairs, Mu Sochua, on Tuesday disassociated the party from their cause. They say they hope to challenge the government over the disputed July national election.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, they were asked to move on from outside the French Embassy and made a stop at Wat Koh pagoda, which was blocked at about 11 a.m., where they were later joined by Phnom Penh deputy governor Khuong Sreng, as well as a contingent of commune and traffic police.

After two bouts of negotiation, the group was let out of the pagoda by six monks who said the authorities had no right to block the gate, and they traveled to Freedom Park after agreeing not to return to the French Embassy or visit the Japanese Embassy as they had planned.

However, at 2 p.m., they were met by a group of protesters from the Boeng Kak community and headed back to the French Embassy, to the frustration of police, who tried but failed to herd them back to Freedom Park.

Deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin said: “We had made an agreement that they would go back to Freedom Park, but now why have they changed their mind and want to go the French Embassy?”

Once there, the group delivered a petition calling for assistance in making the government “respect the law” and honor the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements.

“We do not have a legal government,” one protester said.

Another protester, Ouk Pich Samnang, 55, said the group would continue to congregate at Wat Phnom, where at least 100 military police were stationed after they arrived.

“If we will keep silent, they will not care about us; therefore, we need to make our voices heard in order find justice for our people,” he added.

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