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Activists Detained as Demonstration Crackdown Continues

Tep Vanny of Boeung Kak lake is blocked by riot police officers during a protest rally near the prime minister's residence in Phnom Penh, file photo.
At least five housing rights activists were detained for much of the day Monday, as a government crackdown on ongoing protests continues.

Among the detained was Tep Vanny, an outspoken leader who has been to the United States on separate occasions to speak to officials about housing rights and forced evictions in Cambodia, and Yorm Bopha, another community leader who recently ended a stint of prolonged detention.

The five demonstrators were held for hours, after leading a rally in front of the French Embassy, where they had sought to deliver a petition calling for the release of detained labor leaders and activists.

Many protesters were from the Boeung Kak lake community, which has been protesting against their forced evictions since 2008.

The detentions come amid weeks of anti-government protesting and the deadly shooting of demonstrating garment workers on Friday, as well as the ouster of pro-opposition protesters from a public square on Saturday.

Fifteen people, including five monks, were arrested in Friday’s crackdown. Demonstrators at the French Embassy Monday had been calling for their release.

Nget Khun, who joined the rally, said Tep Vanny, Yorm Bopha and three others were pushed into a minivan while trying to deliver the petition.

“Please, Prime Minister Hun Sen should open his eyes to look at who is committing violence to people, not arrest innocent people,” Nget Khun said.

All five were later released after signing a letter promising to halt demonstrations.

However, after she was out, Tep Vanny said she would stop protesting only under two conditions. “First, kill me,” she said. “Or give us justice.”

Meanwhile, the French government on Monday issued a statement urging all political parties to rapidly find a solution to an ongoing political deadlock over July’s elections.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement called for political dialogue and “the proper functioning of institutions, in a spirit of calm and restraint.”