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Authorities attempt to crack down on peaceful community march in Cambodia

Authorities question people participating in a march for Yorm Bopha, including CCHR representatives, 4 September 2013
Authorities question people participating in a march for Yorm Bopha, including CCHR representatives, 4 September 2013

CCHR

On 4 September 2013, the Phnom Penh authorities restricted a peaceful march by Boeung Kak community representatives and supporters to mark the one-year imprisonment of fellow land rights activist Yorm Bopha, who was wrongfully convicted in December 2012. The community planned to march from their area of Phnom Penh to the Wat Phnom pagoda and then to the Supreme Court to demand that the court urgently hear Yorm Bopha's case. When they notified City Hall that they planned to hold the march, City Hall responded to the community and said that if they were planning on having more than 200 participants, they could only carry out their activities within the Boeung Kak area.

Despite the lack of permission from City Hall, the community decided to proceed, believing that there were no legal grounds to prevent them from peacefully demonstrating. When they attempted to leave from Boeung Kak on the morning of 4 September to march towards Wat Phnom, several groups of community members wearing t-shirts and carrying flowers, flags, loudspeakers and other campaigns material, were prevented from exiting by the police. The community representatives asked the monitoring team from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") to load their van with the campaigns material - t-shirts, flags, loudspeakers etc. - so that they would be allowed to leave. The CCHR team did as the community asked and drove towards the exit. The police and military police had barricaded the road and stopped the CCHR van. Behind the van were two tuk tuks carrying supporters with flags and banners etc. The police and other security forces confiscated these materials aggressively, even hitting one man on the head.

CCHR

The police would not allow the CCHR team to leave and insisted on searching CCHR's vehicle. The CCHR team asked the police what grounds they had to search the van to which the police responded that the community activities were not supposed to leave the Boeung Kak area and that the CCHR team was therefore not permitted to transport campaigns material on the community's behalf. The police then wanted to accompany the vehicle to the police station. The team remained on site at Boeung Kak, discussing the situation with the police. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union later arrived on the scene.

Update: CCHR subsequently reported that the team was held at the site for a few hours while the authorities searched their vehicle, and they were then allowed to leave.

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