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Temporary arrest of Yorm Bopha and 4 other land activists in Cambodia; demonstrations banned in Phnom Penh

On 6 January 2014, five land rights activists from Boeng Kak Lake were temporarily arrested in Phnom Penh.

At 8.00 am, Tep Vanny, Yorm Bopha, Bo Chhorvy, Phan Chhunreth and Song Sreiy Leap began marching to the French Embassy to ask for the release of Vorn Pov and nine other peaceful demonstrators previously arrested on 2 January.

The five land rights activists were arrested by police officers at around 8.40 am and immediately taken to the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Station. They were released at 4.45 pm only after they agreed to sign a letter stating that they will temporarily not engage in further protests.

Their arrest follows a ban on all demonstrations in Phnom Penh. On 4 January, the Ministry of Interior issued a press release temporarily banning all forms of assembly or marches until “public order and security is restored.”

There is no specific end date to the ban.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Hall also issued a letter on 4 January to Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition group Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). The letter answers the CNRP notification that it will continue to hold protests daily in the city.

In the letter, the Municipal Office says it will not authorize the CNRP to hold marches or demonstrations until security and public order are guaranteed. In addition, the newspaper Koh Santepheap reported on 6 January that the district governor of Rusey Keo in Phnom Penh called on the police to disband gatherings of more than ten persons.

These severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly were issued following violent clashes between garment workers and demonstrators and the military police on 3 January. During the clashes, the military police indiscriminately and disproportionally used lethal force against the agitators, killing five persons.

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