Locals yesterday accused commune police of breaking up a gathering of 12 villagers at Memot pagoda in Tbong Khmum’s Memot commune on Tuesday, though authorities maintained they had merely questioned the group to “maintain security and stability”.
According to one of the villagers in the group, Phon Sophal, the group was waiting for a few other members at the pagoda – where they had arranged to meet before leaving for another location to discuss plans for a Human Rights Day celebration next month – when they were approached by the police.
“[The police said that] when people gather it surprises others, and a lot of people will come . . . create a mess . . . affecting public order,” he said.
“They said we should ask for permission. I said a simple gathering doesn’t require us to inform them, as this is our right and it is not an important issue.”
Nonetheless, he said, police then asked the group to leave.
However, Memot commune deputy police chief Yan Sitha denied police had demanded the group disperse.
“It is not true that we did not allow them to gather there. The police just asked them about their aim, because people get afraid when they see a gathering,” he said. “It is to maintain security. What’s wrong with just notifying us?”