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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Clueless backpackers arrested

Clueless backpackers arrested

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MISLED

Dazed and confused, a backpacker clutches a US flag and parrots opposition slogans at the head of a protest.

TWO foreign tourists who were "here for peace" were arrested and held for

two nights after participating in an anti-government street protest. They were released

without charge and flew out of the country on Sept 16.

American Matthew Hurley, 21, originally from Massachusetts, and German Heiko Durrfeld,

28, were walking at the head of a Sept 14 march, arm-in-arm with march leaders.

Durrfeld was waving a United Nations flag, and Hurley clutched an American one.

The two had been spotted at several previous marches holding hands with protesters

and chanting Khmer slogans, causing observers to worry that their presence could

be misunderstood as a sign of foreign support for the marchers.

"I thought they were human rights workers at first," said one Cambodian

journalist.

Freelance cameraman Alain Guillemot interviewed the two on-camera just before their

arrest:

"Why are we here? Well, we were in Siem Reap, tourists," Hurley explained.

"We heard on the news, on CNN, that there was trouble and we wanted to come

just to see what was going on. When we got here we heard there was a peace demonstration.

I'm all for peace in my heart."

"Same like me, I can go for peace," added Durrfeld.

"Everyone was so happy that white people were here to show support for their

cause," Hurley said.

Durrfeld then held up a notebook, saying that Hurley had written down his address

"in case he dies".

At a confrontation near the train station on Sept 10, Hurley reportedly stood between

rock-throwing protesters and police, shouting: "No, no! Peace!", then ducked

for cover when the police climbed out of their trucks.

A foreign cameraman reported watching the pair run after a journalist's jeep that

day, bending a rollbar while trying to jump on. "You're just here for the money,"

Hurley reportedly said to the journalists. "We're here for peace."

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the two were released without a deportation

order. "They didn't commit an offense. We are reluctant to say 'deportation'

... but we want to ask them to leave Cambodia."

The foreigners were held for two nights in the immigration police office, visited

by their consular officers, and released Sept 16 on the condition that they depart

as soon as possible.

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