The penultimate Human Rights Day march into the capital did not go smoothly yesterday for some monks and villagers who, after walking for hours, were turned away from their planned rest stops.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at local rights group Licadho, said that as of 6pm most of the groups marching from provinces across the country to mark Human Rights Day today had settled for the night at their planned pagodas.
But, he said, two groups of marchers were forced to add another leg to the already tiresome journey.
Marchers on National Road 4, who had planned to stay at Stung Meanchey pagoda, had to travel onwards to Samaki Rainsy pagoda, a common stopover for activists.
Thai Bunthoeun, Stung Meanchey’s chief abbot, said he did not allow the marchers to stay overnight because he was following an “order from the top monks”.
“We are afraid that they could cause problems in our pagoda,” he explained. “We are afraid that they will come to stay for a long time, not only a night.”
Marchers from National Road 6 were also turned away from Kien Klaing pagoda, but the abbot declined to give reasons for the refusal.
Ngim Sao Samkhan, a monk leading the march, said that the pagoda’s refusal to give them shelter highlighted the need for Human Rights Day protests.
“It shows that human rights in Cambodia have not been implemented well,” he said.
The group eventually stopped for the night at Chroy Changvar district’s Wat Chas.
Earlier in the day, marchers on National Road 5 also faced resistance from security forces.
Dozens of police and security guards blocked the line of monks and villagers from passing, offering instead to drive the group into the city.
“It’s a march, which means walking, not taking a car,” said the group’s leader, Thong Narith.
After about three hours of negotiations, the marchers were allowed to pass.
Today, the groups will converge to deliver petitions, as events across the city are held to mark the day.