A protest group known as the Black Monday Campaign has postponed demonstrations until after Cambodians go to the polls next month citing threats of violence.
Chan Puthisak, one of the movement’s organizers, said the decision was made to end the weekly protests was made after a number of warnings were issued by members of the government and military against disruptions ahead of the vote on June 4.
General Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said any group attempting to create a “color revolution” in the country would be dealt with harshly.
The Black Monday Campaign was created to advocate for the release of political prisoners in Cambodia, including four human rights workers and an election official jailed on questionable charges in connection with a case against the leader of the country’s main opposition party.
“We want the leaders [to] feel relaxed and likely turn to be kind in releasing the people jailed in prison,” Puthisak said of the decision to end the protests.
Bov Sophea, another Black Monday organizer, said the group did not want to distract people from an “important national election.”
“I think that if any political party is elected and will serve the people, the prisoners will be freed automatically,” she said.
Lim Mony, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda and Ni Sokha, all staffers with local rights group Adhoc, were charged with corruption for allegedly bribing a witness in the case against the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s president, Kem Sokha. Ny Chakrya, a National Election Committee member and former Adhoc official, was also charged with a related offense.
Gen. Saroeun said on Monday that the armed forces must “absolutely oppose color revolution”, a label regularly applied to peaceful protesters such as those taking part in the Black Monday protests. “The army must protect the legitimate government,” he said.
But campaigners say the government misunderstands their intentions. “I think they don’t know, but the people know that Cambodia is what we call a country of the rule of law and democracy,” said Puthisak.
Sophea said Saroeun’s comments revealed the government was paranoid and stuck in the past. “They fear their own minds. They are in fear; they are thinking back to when revolutions were staged because they suffered at that time.”