Ignoring objections and even vague threats made by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Cambodian activists in South Korea plan to stage a protest on Sunday ahead of a five-day summit Prime Minister Hun Sen is scheduled to attend on December 10.
Around 1,500 opposition supporters intend to rally in Seoul and sign a petition demanding jailed Cambodia National Rescue Party member Meach Sovannara’s immediate release, according to an organiser.
“[Sovannara] created our youth group in Korea, so the Cambodian workers in Korea consider him a hero,” said Yim Sinorn, president of the CNRP-aligned Youth Movement.
But Cambodia’s ambassador to Korea, Suth Dina, warned that such shaming of the Cambodian leader on an international stage will “not be permitted”.
“The Korean government will not allow this in their country, I am confident,” he said. “Before, protests were allowed, but this is a different context. It is a special event and the prime minister is a special guest.”
Last month, Dina made Facebook comments warning potential protesters that Korean police have been provided the names of “anti-government” activists, and asked them to “bear in mind that Korea strongly supports the Cambodian PM”.
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour alleged last month that such activism by Cambodians in Korea negatively affects the ability of Cambodian migrants to work there, as Korean employers prefer more amicable workers. Sour could not be reached yesterday.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann maintained, however, that as democracies, both Cambodia and Korea should appreciate the right to peaceful assembly.
“[Korea] has the right and responsibility to protect visiting leaders, but it also must ensure the rights and safety of the protesters,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEN DAVID