Man Beaten, Arrested as Youth Group Marks Social Justice Day

A man was beaten and arrested, and eight CNRP youth supporters were chased out of Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park by Daun Penh district security guards Thursday after they tried to hold a ceremony to mark the World Day of Social Justice.

After the group of youngsters turned up to the park’s Naga bridge Thursday morning, they were met by about 50 riot police who warned them against advancing further.

“We want to take this opportunity to remove a ban on rallies of more than 10 people, and we call for the release of 21 people who were imprisoned [in garment strikes last month],” said Lim Kimsor, the CNRP youth activist who organized the event.

Two trucks bearing helmet-wearing district security guards then arrived.

“You cannot hold this ceremony anywhere, since it will damage public order unless you get permission,” Kim Vutha, the district public security chief, told the group.

“If you do not stop, we will arrest you,” he added.

The group was then chased as far as Central Market, where 30-year-old Heang Seang Leang—who the group says was not a member, but had turned up to show his support for them—was arrested.

“I was not participating with the youth, but the authorities accused me of participating with them and damaging public order,” he said later.

“They pushed me from my motorbike and used sticks to beat me on the head…it is illegal to arrest and hit people.”

“We want to mark the World Day of Social of Justice since our people do not know about this,” said Rin Chanrith, one of the youth supporters, after the group fled to the outside of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He said the group aimed to draw attention to freedom of expression and human rights.

Mr. Kimsor said Mr. Seang Leang was detained for 30 minutes before being released without charge.

“We condemn the arrest, since he was just doing nothing wrong and he was not one of the youth group—he met with us accidently and followed us.

“We have seen violent crackdowns from the authorities against peaceful demonstrations that have killed a few people and injured many,” Mr. Kimsor said.

In a statement, rights group Adhoc said it “condemned the arrest of people who are innocent by City Hall authorities,” while the Cambodian Legal Education Center said in a separate release that “in Cambodia, the Day of Social Justice comes at a time where citizens, workers and activists alike are being denied their basic human rights, often under extremely violent circumstances.”

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