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Petitioners set for Round 2 of showdown with City Hall

Petitioners set for Round 2 of showdown with City Hall

Protesters were due to march on four foreign embassies this morning to deliver petitions calling for the release of the 23 detainees held at the remote Correctional Centre 3 after being arrested during the crackdown earlier this month.

The march – to the embassies of Germany, South Korea, Australia and Thailand – comes after 11 activists from the same group representing 181 NGOs were arrested on Tuesday near the US embassy.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that despite the likelihood that more activists would be grabbed off the streets by private security guards hired by City Hall, the marchers could not turn a blind eye to the detainees’ plight.

“I think there is no choice. The way that we work, there are arrests, we go to prison,” he said. “How can we close our eyes, close our ears?”

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), who was one of the 11 arrested on Tuesday’s march, said he would march again today.

“I am not worried about my security, and I am not scared of being arrested again, because we are not wrong. We’re just bringing petitions to the embassies,” he said.

“We do not cause social disorder or do anything illegal. I want to send a message to City Hall governor Pa Socheatvong that he should allow us to march and protect all participants, because he will be admired by everybody and other countries,” he added.

Long Dimanche, City Hall spokesman, said yesterday that he was not aware of the march, adding that orders would be given to break up any “rally” where the city had not granted permission.

“I do not know about it at all, but if it is illegal and without permission, every rally must be banned,” he said.

Phearum said that the activists would set out on the march expecting to come up against the city’s private security vanguard.

“We know that the authorities will not allow us to submit the petition. They try to suppress our freedom of expression,” he said. “We know that the international community has close co-operation with the government. That’s why we have to find a way to reach out to them.”

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