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Protest with a Korean twist

121218 01
Boeung Kak lake residents and other land rights activists dance ‘Gangnam Style’ during a protest in front of the National Assembly yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Protesters who vowed to get more creative with their displays of public dissent did just that yesterday, taking part in a hundreds-strong Gangnam Style-inspired dance outside the National Assembly.

About 300 people danced and rapped as they urged authorities to resolve a spate of human-rights and land issues.

Finding the “real” killer of environmentalist Chut Wutty, bringing deposed Bavet town Governor Chhouk Bandith to trial, releasing Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando and ending land disputes were among demands made by the protesters.

Phal Vannak had travelled from Kampong Speu province, where he is locked in a land dispute, to urge National Assembly President Heng Samrin to restore human rights.

“We want to reveal our suffering by dancing to this catchy Korean song, because we have already done our best to deal with this issue with no result,” he said.

Gangnam Style, a K-pop song replete with infectious dance moves, by Korean artist PSY, has been watched more than 968 million times – the most ever – on YouTube since its release in June.

Protesters yesterday wore T-shirts with the names and thumbprints of land evictees and novelty hats with the words “stop forced evictions”.

Four trees, representing South Korea, Germany, France and New Zealand, whose residents had given 40,000 signatures to an Amnesty International petition calling for an end to rights abuses, were festooned with petitions and erected in front of the National Assembly.

The event was organised by the Friends of December 10th, a group of human rights defenders with links to NGOs.

 Political analyst Chea Vannath said protesters using art and culture to push causes was telling of their nature.

“Even in the way they express their frustration, instead of punching and kicking, they use the arts . . . and have a tendency to be gentle,” she said.

It was difficult to understand why the government would want to silence such dissent, she said.

“In any movement, even peaceful ones – even what Sonando was saying was quite peaceful – it’s the size of it that counts.

The government is taken by the numbers . . . but consistent, evolving protests can make the authorities consider their strategies.”

Additional reporting by Shane Worrell

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