Five Boeung Kak lake activists were arrested outside the French Embassy by plain-clothed and uniformed police officers this morning as they petitioned for the release of fellow activists taken into custody last week.
In the first test of the government’s tolerance for public assembly since last week’s brutal attacks on protesters, the activists were immediately arrested after arriving at the embassy at about 8.30am.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall has banned demonstrations in the lead-up to tomorrow’s commemoration of the toppling of the Khmer Rouge regime but is not clear why they arrested a group of people merely submitting a petition.
The Cambodian Center for Human rights confirmed Yorm Bopha, Tep Vanny, Phan Chhunreth, Song Srey Leap, and Bo Chhorvy, several of whom have previously been jailed by authorities, were all arrested.
Nay Vanda, deputy head of human rights monitoring and the legal aid section at rights group Adhoc, said the UNOHCHR had told him police were talking with the five and that they believed the group would be released this afternoon.
“As a human rights activists I strongly condemn the arrests, the illegal arrests and the illegal detention. I appeal to all victims of Cambodia to demand their rights…that they are losing,” he said.
“This is the time to stand up.”
As of yet, the UNOHCHR said they were unable to comment.
Rights groups and supporters of the activists gathered at Phnom Penh Municipal Police Headquarters afterward calling for their release but were told by a police officer the group had already been transferred to court.
Municipal Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that the group had not requested permission for their activities and had just been arrested as a warning but could not confirm whether they would be released.
“They protested and marched in the street without permission from the authority and I am not sure when protesters will be allowed again. Based on a statement from the Ministry of Interior it will be allowed when the situation in Phnom Penh returns to normal,” he said.
Housing Rights Task Force director Sia Phearum said the group had been requesting the release of fellow Boeung Kak lake activist Chan Putisak and nine others arrested during a crackdown on demonstrations on Thursday.