Phnom Penh Municipal Police this morning released a union leader they scooped off the street yesterday evening for allegedly leading a protest despite a ban on public demonstrations.
Sok Chhun Oeung, acting president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), left the police station at about 10am, after signing a contract promising he would not incite or participate in demonstrations and report to police any illegal activity of which he becomes aware, Oeung told the Post this morning.
“The authorities who arrested me violated the constitutional law of Cambodia,” Oeung said in a phone interview. “This action is a violation of human rights, as well.”
Oeung’s arrest at about 5:30pm yesterday occurred as IDEA members attempted to hold a vigil for 23 people – including IDEA’s president, Vorn Pov - who were arrested in demonstrations supporting a garment worker strike on January 2 and 3. Oeung, IDEA’s vice president, has served as acting president since Pov’s arrest.
IDEA members originally intended to hold a prayer vigil at Wat Ounalom, where they would pray for their comrades still detained at Correctional Centre 3 in Kampong Cham and release balloons.
But when they arrived at the pagoda, security guards armed with batons and wearing black motorcycle helmets pushed people in front of the pagoda, clearing the entrance.
As Oeung got on a motorbike to move the vigil to the riverside area across from the Royal Palace, Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penh Vuth shouted at him that he would order Oeung’s arrest if the small demonstration continued.
After security guards scuffled with the small group of demonstrators, two pickup trucks filled with riot police pulled up at the scene.
Police grabbed Oeung, put him into one of the trucks and took him to Phnom Penh Municipal Police Department.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said this morning that Oeung’s arrest in the first place was unconstitutional, since the ban on public demonstrations violates the constitution.
“The problem is the ban is unconstitutional,” Virak said. “You can’t just ban public demonstrations without first declaring a state of emergency.”