Sporting red bandanas and armed with the accoutrements of Khmer black magic, several hundred demonstrators representing embattled communities throughout the country held noisy protests outside several government offices on Wednesday, where they placed curses on corrupt officials and submitted written petitions demanding justice.
Unlike previous protests that have been broken up by water cannons and burly police officers with truncheons and electrified riot shields, Wednesday’s demonstration went undisturbed as the crowd first blocked the entrance to the Ministry of Justice before moving on to the nearby Supreme Court and then a larger demonstration at the entrance to the National Assembly.
Mixing old and new styles of protest, the demonstrators used bullhorns to blast messages denouncing court officials who colluded with the government and the rich and powerful to usurp land from the poor.
They laid out the ingredients of their curse in the form of two rotting chicken carcasses, 10 baskets of salt and red chili peppers and three life-size effigies of judicial officials: a judge, a prosecutor and a lawyer; their pockets stuffed with imitation hundred dollar bills.
“I want the government and involved institutions to help solve the problems of the poor people with land and housing,” said Ken Bopha, 53, from Russei Keo district in Phnom Penh.
Seng Sok Heng, 33, said he had traveled from Oddar Meanchey province to join the protest because of the arrest of human rights workers and villagers who have tried to protect their land from being stolen.
“We protested and submitted petitions because we want the Justice Ministry and all involved ministries to intervene and drop charges against the activists on land, forestry, natural resources and housing,” he said.
The protesters submitted their petition to the Justice Ministry, National Assembly, Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.