Upon Release, Activist Vows to Keep Fighting For Tep Vanny

Six protesters arrested as they prepared to release balloons in homage to jailed activist Tep Vanny were released on Monday, with one vowing to continue protesting until the prominent Boeng Kak activist is freed.

About 50 activists from three of the capital’s eviction-hit communities traveled to Prey Sar prison on Sunday to release balloons—an act meant to represent the release of Ms. Vanny—but were met by about 70 police and security guards. A group of activists and four balloon vendors were then arrested when they attempted to move inside a nearby pagoda.

Anti-eviction activist Tep Vanny jumps over a pot of flames yesterday during a pre-New Year ceremony to banish bad luck for 23 men charged for their role in protests in 2014. (Va Malina)
Anti-eviction activist Tep Vanny jumps over a pot of flames  in 2014 during a pre-New Year ceremony to banish bad luck for 23 men charged for their role in protests. (Va Malina)

The balloon sellers were released hours later, while the activists were held overnight at the Dangkao district police station.

District police chief Choem Sitha said they were released at about 4 p.m. on Monday after he deemed they were not a threat to “public order.”

Elderly Boeng Kak activist Nget Khun said she signed a contract promising to avoid future demonstrations, although she acknowledged she was insincere.

“In their contract, they ordered us to stop demonstrating or rallying, but I can’t stop because our resident Tep Vanny is still in jail,” Ms. Khun said.

“If you want to arrest me, OK. Take me to jail with Tep Vanny.”

Ms. Vanny is in Prey Sar awaiting trial over a charge of intentional violence relating to a 2013 rally near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house. She is also facing separate charges of insulting police and obstructing public officials during a protest that turned violent five years ago.

The cases were reactivated last month after she was arrested during a peaceful protest in Boeng Kak that urged a full investigation into the murder of political commentator Kem Ley.

In the latest episode in the long-running “Black Monday” campaign on Monday, security guards blocked protesters and ripped up banners in Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila neighborhood, activist Son Sorn said.

“The authorities came right to my house and stopped the campaign. They tore my pictures,” Ms. Sorn said. “They are too much.”

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