City Hall gave the green light to about 100 garment workers to protest against opposition leader Sam Rainsy at Freedom Park yesterday because the event was expected to be “small and easy to control” and not against “government policy”.
Srey Chamroeun – leader of a student group that for months harassed CNRP acting president Kem Sokha over affair allegations – applied for permission to hold the rally following Rainsy’s call for the European Union to leverage Cambodia’s garment industry for improved human rights.
The approval came after several events – including one organised by radio station director and government critic Mam Sonando – were refused by the municipality.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said Chamroeun’s request was lodged on July 20 and approved two days later. The governor OK’d it because “100 people is small and easy to control, but we didn’t approve Mam Sanando’s event because it was about the Black Monday campaign to release [jailed] activists, which is against government policy”.
Chamroeun said his group selected Sunday because it was their day off. “People volunteered because they are not happy with Sam Rainsy; they’re afraid they’re going to lose their jobs,” he said.
About 30 members of the group delivered a petition to the National Assembly, which asked for intervention should the EU follow Rainsy’s suggestion.
Social media activist Thy Sovantha, a onetime CNRP supporter who has since filed defamation charges against Sokha, said she helped draft the petition.
“The garment workers asked me how a petition is written,” Sovantha said. “We gave them counselling and how to do it legally.”
As for the request coinciding with Kem Ley’s procession day, “It is not against the law; it’s their right to do it,” she said.
Additional reporting by Donna M Airoldi