Monks, Workers Hold Vigil for Slain Protesters

About 100 monks, activists and workers returned on Saturday evening to the Canadia Industrial Park, where garment workers clashed with military police on January 3, to pray for the five protesters who were shot dead in the violence and call for the release of 23 imprisoned activists and workers.

About 20 monks from the Independent Monks Network for Social Justice lit candles and led prayers near Veng Sreng Street, which was temporarily placed under curfew and military surveillance last month after military police opened fire on protesters armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails, killing five and injuring more than 40.

Military police arrested 13 protesters on Veng Sreng Street, bringing the total number of imprisoned workers and activists to 23 after soldiers on January 2 arrested 10 protesters following the violent dispersal on of peaceful protests outside the Yakjin garment factory in Pur Senchey district.

Heng Samorn, the secretary-general of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, whose president Vorn Pao is among the 23 detainees, said the group was not concerned about gathering amid a ban on demonstrations.

“If police had arrested us, we would have been ready for it. Many people are demanding the release [of the 23],” Mr. Samorn said.

“If the court is independent and neutral they will release them as soon as possible because they do not have witnesses to provide exculpatory evidence against them,” he added.

Tim Malay, president of the Cambodian Youth Network, who attended Saturday’s ceremony, said that most of the 23 detainees were only guilty of facilitating peaceful protests for workers to demand a $160 minimum wage.

“The more the government applies pressure—suppressing and stifling people’s right to rally and express themselves—the more people will join together and stand up to fight for their rights,” he said.

Judges at the Court of Appeal have scheduled a bail hearing for the 23 detainees on February 11.

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