Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns arrests made during the Cambodian “Black Monday” protests in Phnom Penh, and calls for the release of five political prisoners currently held by the government. The “Black Monday” campaign was created in response to the arrest of four workers from a human rights group and one election officer. A group of activists wearing all black has been gathering peacefully every Monday since May 9 outside the prison to demand the release of the political prisoners. On Monday, four women were arrested at the weekly protest while peacefully marching in the streets.
“Cambodia’s authoritarian regime has a history of silencing anyone who disagrees with it. The justice system in Cambodia is nothing more than a well-oiled machine aimed at suppressing freedom of speech,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “By demonstrating peacefully against a tyrannical regime, the protesters are not violating any legitimate laws, but instead exercising their basic human rights. The prisoners should be released at once, and the Cambodian police must stop harassing peaceful protesters,” he added.
Another four activists were arrested on June 6 while on their way to the protest, and three more were arrested outside the prison after putting a bouquet of flowers on a fence. Although Cambodian law does not require prior permission to hold demonstrations, a Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman said the arrested activists failed to obtain prior approval for the demonstration. A National Police spokesman accused the arrested protesters of incitement, but they were released at the end of the day without being formally charged. They were, however, pressured into signing contracts promising they would not protest again.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.