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Black Monday activist arrested as CNRP gives campaign nod

A policeman takes a homemade poster away from a Borei Keila community activist yesterday during a Black Monday protest in Phnom Penh.
A policeman takes a homemade poster away from a Borei Keila community activist yesterday during a Black Monday protest in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Black Monday activist arrested as CNRP gives campaign nod

Prominent Borei Keila activist Sar Sorn was yesterday arrested and later released by Prampi Makara district police after she led about 20 “Black Monday” protesters from her community to the Appeal Court, on the same day that the opposition CNRP formally came out in support of the campaign.

The group of activists from the Borei Keila community were attempting to march to the Appeal Court, where NEC official Ny Chakrya had an appeals hearing, when district police stopped them and snatched away a banner bearing an image of slain political activist Kem Ley. After a small scuffle, Sorn was put into a police truck and taken away.

Following her release in the late afternoon, Sorn said she had to agree to stop taking part in Black Monday protests – which have been organised to call for the release of those jailed in relation to an alleged Kem Sokha sex scandal – and was also warned that her actions violated criminal code provisions.

“During the detention, a court official stated articles 522 and 523 of the Criminal Code to threaten me, saying I could be sentenced for 5 to 8 months’ imprisonment and fined 1 to 2 million riel [$250 to $500],” she said.

The articles pertain to publishing commentaries “intending to put pressure on the court” to influence a decision, and to “discrediting” a court’s decision with the intent of “disturbing public order or endangering an institution”, respectively.

Despite agreeing to stop her activities, Sorn said she would continue to participate in the Black Monday campaign.

Prampi Makara district police chief Ros Sina said Sorn was arrested for conducting an “illegal march”, while Veal Vong commune police chief Mok Borun Chhorsak said Sorn was a repeat offender and looking to affect “public order”.

However, Boeung Kak activists continued to hold their prayer vigil in the community, where they created a mock grave for Kem Ley, lit candles and wore black shirts bearing Ley’s picture, with activist Tep Vanny saying they were now seeking justice for Ley in addition to the release of those in jail.

More than three months into the Black Monday campaign, the Cambodia National Rescue Party yesterday formally announced that it had joined the civil society-backed campaign.

CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the party had supported the Black Monday campaign previously but that activists were now welcome to use party headquarters to continue to call for release of four jailed Adhoc officials and one NEC official.

The party has been under siege since news of Sokha’s alleged affair with a hairdresser broke, with the government also jailing an opposition commune chief on accusations of bribery and attempting to arrest Sokha himself.

Nonetheless, Sochua added that the party was not concerned about incurring the wrath of the government, even after security forces’ repeated references to the campaign as an attempted colour revolution – a reference to the largely nonviolent uprisings that have toppled governments in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

“We are very clear about the Black Monday message, and the founders have made it very clear that it is for the release of human rights defenders,” she added.

At the same time, 52 other groups yesterday launched the #FreeThe5KH website, which includes biographies of the jailed activists and allows supporters to send them messages.

Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga and Meas Sokchea

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