Cambodia: 5 more arrested in new Black Monday protest

Cambodia: 5 more arrested in new Black Monday protest

Police block 2nd protest against detention of rights workers who helped opposition figure’s mistress amid graft scandal

By Lauren Crothers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AA) - Five more people were arrested in Cambodia’s capital Monday as they attempted to stage a second “Black Monday” protest against the detention of five rights workers accused of bribing a woman to deny an affair with an opposition politician.

In Long Beach, California, members of the Cambodian diaspora showed their support for the five by staging their own “Black Monday” protest Sunday.

But while those rallies went unimpeded, in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, police descended upon the community of Boeung Kak to put an end to this week’s demonstration before it had even begun.

According to rights group Licadho, five women from the communities of Boeung Kak, Borei Keila and Thmor Kol -- which have all been embroiled in land disputes -- were arrested at around 9 a.m. (0200GMT) outside a theatre in the city.

They were reportedly then taken to a police station for questioning.

The move came a week after eight people were arrested by police as they attempted to stage the first Black Monday rally outside the prison where the four human rights defenders and an electoral body official are being held.

Those eight were released later that day.

Two weeks ago, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged the five -- including four staff members from rights group Adhoc -- with bribery for assisting Khom Chandaraty, who admitted to having had an affair with Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

The fifth suspect, a former Adhoc member who now serves at the National Election Committee, was charged with acting as an accomplice in the case, alongside a United Nations worker who has immunity and has not been taken in.

According to the allegations, the five -- along with the UN staffer who has immunity -- tried to persuade Chandaraty to deny the affair, which came to light after a series of telephone conversations between the two were leaked.

The case has been described as a politically motivated attempt to stifle the work of civil society groups in Cambodia.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told Anadolu Agency on Monday that the protests would continue to be shut down as long as participants fail to seek permission from the authorities.

He said it has nothing to do with the colored theme.

“If you wear black, it doesn’t matter, but if you want to protest, that’s another issue,” he said.

“If you want to free people from jail, it’s against the law. According to the protest law… you have to ask permission from City Hall and the political authorities to hold that one,” he added.

“We are in a country where we have rules and regulations. In the Criminal Code, if you are against the procedures of the court or against the court decisions, you are in trouble.”

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