Supporters of the “Black Monday” campaign are expected to keep a low profile today following two weeks of arrests and threats by the government, though activists yesterday vowed the movement would continue online.
For the second week in a row, groups involved in the campaign to free five current and former human rights workers, said to be “political prisoners”, have opted not to stage public protests after government and military officials warned of more arrests.
“We decided not to go out for the campaign, but we are committed to campaigning through social media, through Facebook,” said But Buntenh, head of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice. “The ruling party, they are fearful about the Black Monday campaign; they won’t tolerate it, and they will arrest people.”
Activists initially planned to protest every Monday but changed tack after the temporary detention of several people involved in the campaign, in which participants wear black to “mourn the death of human rights in Cambodia”.
The campaign demands the release from prison of four staffers from rights group Adhoc, along with former Adhoc staffer and current election official Ny Chakrya, who are charged with “bribing” the purported mistress of opposition leader Kem Sokha to deny the affair.
Yesterday, the leader of the recently created Cambodian Youth Party, Pich Sross, said he would next week submit a petition with 6,000 thumbprints to the King requesting a royal pardon for the men, whose case has been investigated by the Anti-Corruption Unit.
“The [ACU] did not have any clear evidence, they just saw a four-page letter and arrested and detained them,” Sross said, referring to the complaint by the purported mistress that implicated the group. “There are irregularities in the case.”
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khoun Sreng said City Hall had not received any requests to protest and unauthorised protests would be stopped. “If they violate the law, we will take action,” Sreng said.
Yesterday, NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut director Ee Sarom, who was among those arrested at the first Black Monday protest on May 9, said it was up to individuals as to how they wanted to proceed, and criticised the government’s branding of the movement as illegal, saying participants “only exercise our rights”.
Boeung Kak activist Bou Sophea, who was detained for protesting last Monday, said members of the community would gather and wear black today in a show of support. “We are not sure what they will do to us,” Sophea said.
Justice Ministry official Kim Santepheap took to Facebook last week to warn rights NGO Licadho a new web page dedicated to 29 “political prisoners” locked up in recent months may breach the NGO Law.
Licadho director Naly Pilorge yesterday said unless there were spelling or factual errors, “we have no intentions to modify or remove the graph”.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton