Police Prevent Border Protest, Detain Students

Police detained and later re­leased five members of the Stu­dent Movement for Demo­cracy on Tuesday after they tried to hold a peaceful demonstration in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district against a border agreement that is being discussed this week by Viet­nam and Cambodia.

District police detained the men after they walked out of their office in Tuk La’ak II commune and di­rectly into a police roadblock of about 50 armed officers that had been set up in advance of the pro­test, about 10 meters from the of­fice.

Reporters saw a police official punch Sieng Makara, one of the protesters, in the eye, and protester Sar Longdeth was allegedly hit in the leg with a baton.

The pair were detained at the Tuol Kok police headquarters for about seven hours along with fellow protesters Sorn Dara, Ken Sara and Ir Channa. They were released after thumbprinting an agreement promising not to hold future demonstrations.

The detention “was very cruel be­­cause we didn’t have any wea­pon or cause any trouble,” said Ir Chan­na, the movement’s deputy secretary-general.

Men Serei, Tuol Kok deputy

district governor, said the five were merely “invited” to the police station for re-education.

“We invited them to educate them,” because they did not have government permission for the protest, he said.

“We are concerned that when there is a demonstration without permission, there will be no one re­sponsible if there is any trouble,” said Men Serei.

The student movement had re­quested permission to protest, but were refused by City Hall. The move­ment claims the new bor­der agreement with Vietnam that the government is considering would cede 40,000 square km of Cam­bod­ian territory.

Vietnam’s First Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen today and on Thursday in Siem Reap province.

Also Tuesday, more than 100 district police officials sealed off the office of the Khmer Kampu­chea Krom Coordination Commit­tee in Russei Keo district and prevented committee members from entering.

The committee had been planning a Tuesday march to the Viet­nam Embassy, said Executive Di­rec­tor Kim Vanchheng. The com­mi­ttee placed banners outside its office urging Nguyen Tan Dung to allow ethnic Khmer people living in Vietnam to establish Khmer-language schools and conduct traditional Khmer ceremonies, but the police confiscated the banners, he said.

Ly Lay, Russei Keo district police chief, declined comment on why the banners had been re­moved.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the demonstrations were not given permission because they could cause traffic jams. “If they want to hold demonstrations at their locations, not marching, we will give them permission,” he said.

Though peaceful public protests have largely been banned since early 2003, Phnom Penh Munici­pality recently recommended that the Interior Ministry allow protests against the return of opposition leader Sam Rainsy to Cambodia. An­ti-Sam Rainsy banners have sprung up on the gates of high schools, universities and colleges across the capital.

The government has allowed the protests against Sam Rainsy be­­cause they have not involved marches, Khieu Kanharith maintained.

“The government is never bi­ased,” he added.

Chan Soveth, a monitor with the local rights group Adhoc, condemned the police violence against the Student Movement for Democracy. “This is a serious violation of human rights,” he said.

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