Around 100 protesters from the Boeung Kak development site in Phnom Penh continued demonstrations against the detention of 15 of their representatives on Thursday, submitting an appeal to the Ministry of Justice to help intervene.
Protesters, many of whom were the children of the arrested women, sang songs or shaved their heads in a sign of desperation.
“I appeal to all embassy officials in Cambodia to look for a foster mother to feed my five-year-old son, and I will commit suicide,” said Doung Chhoeut, 45, who said he lost everything in a forced eviction at Boeung Kak.
Meanwhile, 139 separate rights groups and other organizations issued a statement calling for the release of the 15 women. Thirteen of them were arrested May 22, attempting to rebuild a house in protest of a forced eviction earlier this year at the Beoung Kak site. Two more were arrested two days later as they demonstrated against the rapid conviction of the thirteen women in a rushed trial.
The rights groups said in their statement that protesters have faced continual violent crackdowns by Cambodian authorities, leading to fatalities or injuries on some occasions.
Environmentalist Chut Wutty was shot and killed while investigating illegal logging in Koh Kong province in April, and earlier this month a 14-year-old girl, Heng Chantha, was shot and killed by security forces in a crackdown on protesting villagers in Kratie province. Added to that is the shooting injuries of three women at a demonstration of garment factory workers in Svay Rieng province in February.
“These incidents are particularly disturbing because they indicate an increasing readiness on the part of security and military forces to use lethal force against civilians,” the statement said.
Chan Saveth, investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the ongoing violence will effect the outcome of local elections scheduled for Sunday.