The Friday wives: how a quiet picket grew to push for change in Cambodia

After years facing arrest and violence as they fought for their loved ones, a group of women became a rare voice of defiance.

The night that six Cambodian police officers dragged Prum Chantha’s teenage son out of their home for criticising the government in a group chat, she was so distraught that her neighbours insisted on sleeping on her floor to watch over her.

Her husband was already one of more than 100 activists and politicians charged with alleged treason or incitement against Cambodia’s ruling party. Now Kak Sovannchhay, a 16-year-old with autism whose crime was defending his father on Telegram, would join him in Prey Sar prison.

But within a week, Chantha returned to the ritual she had started a year earlier, walking the streets of Phnom Penh with her petition.

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