Rumors of Protests Leave Courthouse Empty

Operations at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court came to an abrupt halt for several hours on Wednesday after court officials heard rumors that huge mobs of demonstrators would protest in front of the courthouse.

By 8 am, almost all prosecutors and judges had fled the building after an unsubstantiated rumor spread that demonstrators were converging on the court to pro­test the arrest of Beehive Radio founder and director Mam Son­an­do, who was charged last week with broadcasting false information in connection with last week’s anti-Thai riots.

One hour later, a group of about 20 people appeared in front of the courthouse but were quickly dispersed by two truckloads of judicial police, said Chan Soveth, an investigator with the human rights group Adhoc who was the courthouse at the time.

The demonstrators, who re­main unidentified, were removed before they stated their purpose for their alleged protest, Chan Soveth said.

By 10 am, there was no trace of the protesters, judges or prosecutors at the courthouse. Only court clerks were seen at the court.

Sok Roeun, a prosecutor at the Municipal Court, said he re­mained at the courthouse through­­out the morning and did not hear or see any protest in front of the building.

Rumors throughout the morning persisted that a roaming group of demonstrators were assembling in front of various buildings in Phnom Penh to protest the arrest and detention of Mam Sonando.

However, no protesters ever arrived at the office. The court had resumed work by 2 pm.




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