Military police attempted to arrest a group of protesters as they marched through Koh Kong province’s Khemara Phoumint City Thursday to demand the release of three jailed activists from environmental NGO Mother Nature, a rights worker and an official said.
Hour In, a provincial monitor for rights group Licadho, said that about 50 people protested outside the Koh Kong Provincial Court calling for the release of the activists, who were jailed last week after they were charged with threatening to destroy barges operated by a sand dredging company.
According to Mr. In, the group then attempted to march around a nearby market.
But at about 9:30 a.m., more than 30 military police officers and other law enforcement personnel blocked the road with their vehicles, he said.
“I saw a pickup truck and motorbikes transporting about 20 military police arrive and block the path of people marching,” Mr. In said. “Then they attempted to grab two women and push them into the truck.”
“Another woman tried to pull the women from the hands of the military police and one military police punched her several times in her head,” he added. “Then they released the women after all the protesters came to resist the military police.”
About 30 minutes after the brief skirmish, police allowed the protesters to return to the courthouse to continue their demonstration, Mr. In said, adding that the city issued a letter on Wednesday forbidding the protesters from marching.
Khemara Phoumint City deputy governor Pen Bunchhouy confirmed that the letter said the protesters would not be allowed to march and could only demonstrate at the court. He said police attempted to arrest the women because they did not obey the city’s letter.
“We released them because they did not commit a crime. We just instructed them and let them rejoin the protest,” Mr. Bunchhouy said.
“We will wait to see if they march tomorrow. If they march and cause incitement, maybe we will arrest them,” he added.