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Pregnant, but still protesting

Pregnant, but still protesting

Despite warnings from their peers to stay away from violent protests, pregnant women from Boeung Kak lake have often risked their safety – and that of their unborn children – to defend their rights, a community representative said yesterday.

Activist Song Srey Leap, 27, said Khek Chan Raksmey, 33, was the third women from Boeung Kak to miscarry after being assaulted by police or security guards at a protest.

Chan Raksmey, who was two months pregnant, was allegedly kicked in the stomach on Monday by authorities in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Hall.

“My community knows about the risks to pregnant women at protests and advises them not to get involved,” Srey Leap said. “But they’re really desperate – so they always join. If they have no home and no land, they have nothing for their baby.”

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of rights group Housing Rights Task Force, said he was “really concerned” about pregnant protesters but said activists’ willingness to “die in the street” for their cause was a sign of their desperation.

“They know they will face beatings and arrests,” he said. “We just urge them to be non-violent.”

In the case of Chan Raksmey, Phearum believed she had not told her fellow protesters that she was pregnant. Regardless, he said, the violence against her had been totally unacceptable.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said his organisation spoke to protesters about the dangers of what they did.

“We speak to them about [violence] and tell them about the risks involved in activism,” he said, noting that “it’s up to the people whether they protest”.

Two workers miscarried after violent clashes with police during strikes at the Sabrina Garment factory in late May.

“We cannot tell pregnant women not to join the strikes – it’s their right to do so,” Free Trade Union president Chea Mony said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA

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