Some 200 representatives of 16 communities from across the country on Wednesday marched through Phnom Penh dropping off copies of a petition calling for the release of 11 jailed anti-eviction activists and an end to state-sanctioned violence against villagers in land disputes.
The protesters first submitted the petition to the Interior Ministry at about 11:30 a.m. before making their way to the Justice Ministry, the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak accepted the petition outside his ministry, praising the marchers for their discipline.
“Please keep up this culture of protesting peacefully,” General Sopheak told the crowd.
Bouv Sorphea, a protester from Phnom Penh’s eviction-weary Boeng Kak neighborhood, however, said she held little hope that the petition would bring about change and called for the Justice Ministry to be shut down.
“Obviously, we have seen that the Ministry of Justice brings no justice, so please, just close the ministry,” she said.
Ms. Sorphea contrasted the treatment of the 11 activists, who were all jailed on protest-related charges, with that of the parents of fugitive Defense Ministry official Thong Sarath, who on Saturday were granted bail and released from prison, where they had been held on weapons possession charges.
“I think it’s shameful that the parents of Thong Sarath were released by the court…but their own people, they treat like cats and dogs,” Ms. Sorphea said.
She added that if the Justice Ministry continued to ignore protesters’ requests that it intervene to release the imprisoned activists, they would resort to less diplomatic methods.
“We will stop submitting petitions and we will submit s—t instead,” she said.
The Appeal Court last month upheld the convictions handed down to the 11 activists, including seven from Boeng Kak who were jailed for blocking traffic while protesting the city’s failure to address flooding of their neighborhood.