Hundreds of Cambodians demonstrated in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Sunday, calling for the release of activists who have been jailed in Phnom Penh for taking part in a variety of protests.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is scheduled to arrive in South Korea on Thursday for a four-day visit to attend a summit of regional leaders.
Among the organizers of Sunday’s rally was Yim Sinorn, president of the Khmer Youth Movement for Democracy. Speaking by telephone from Seoul on Monday, Mr. Sinorn said the demonstrators, about 500 of them, were attempting to take advantage of the international attention the summit would bring to Seoul, and would rally again during the event if the activists were not released by then.
“We protested because we want to show international, and especially Asean, leaders that the leaders of Cambodia are detaining innocent people,” said Mr. Sinorn, who works at a factory that manufactures car parts.
He said the protesters specifically want Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea, Suth Dina, to raise their concerns with Mr. Hun Sen as soon as he arrives.
“If there is no intervention [by the ambassador], we will gather to protest again during Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit,” he said.
Mr. Dina, also contacted Monday by telephone, said he had no intention of addressing the concerns of the demonstrators, whom he estimated to number about 200. He said the protesters were merely the “instruments” of politicians, although he declined to specify which ones.
“Political issues have to be solved with politics, but this [protest] is a legal issue and has to be solved with state law,” he said. “I am not concerned with this protest because I only fulfill my job as ambassador.”
Among the 17 people in prison are monks, opposition CNRP activists and seven women from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood who were summarily sentenced to a year in prison last month for their roles in a street protest.