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Small-scale protests continue

Protesters marching between embassies to deliver petitions block Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard
Protesters marching between embassies to deliver petitions block Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Small-scale protests continue

A day after authorities carted away 11 protesters intending to camp out in front of the United States embassy, a similarly ad hoc group of citizens struggled to deliver petitions to three embassies in the capital yesterday.

The group of about 50 were blocked by police from delivering to the Japanese embassy a petition encouraging signatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement to uphold its tenets.

“The contents of our petition … demands freedom and justice and help from governments that signed the agreement to help lead the Cambodian government towards real democracy,” said Kek Yeng, 56, who attempted to deliver the document.

Authorities blocked the petitioners’ way again at about 2:30pm, this time as they made their way to the French embassy, leading them to stand hand-in-hand across Monivong Boulevard, blocking the busy road for about 45 minutes before police relented and allowed them to deliver their petition.

Shortly afterward the band handed their petition to an official at the US embassy without incident.

Causes of the group, which included the 11 people removed by Daun Penh security guards from a small patch of land across from the US embassy on Tuesday, varied from land grabs to garment worker wages.

Marching with the demonstrators from the French to US embassies, Borey Phan, a 28-year-old monk, said he joined the group specifically to stand against police obstruction of public demonstrations.
“We want to calm down police,” he said. “I didn’t agree with the use of police last night.”

More than 200 riot police and about 20 Daun Penh district security guards descended on the Wat Phnom area on Tuesday night when a the group refused to leave the grass across from the US embassy.

Bystanders not involved in the demonstration began throwing rocks and lit Molotov cocktails at police. Police advanced towards where the projectiles were thrown from but fell back when they were unable to find the culprits.

During this time, Daun Penh security guards removed the final 11 people camped in front of the embassy, bringing them to the nearby Moha Leap Guesthouse to stay the night.

In an interview yesterday, Moen Tola of the Community Legal Education Center decried the authorities’ blocking demonstrators from delivering their petition to the Japanese and French embassies.

“It is not proper at all that the police do that,” Tola said.

“They are voters, they are also citizens, so they have the right to express, the right to assemble.”

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