Protesters once again took to the streets this week as party of the Black Monday Campaign to call for the release of “political prisoners” who they said were being held hostage by the state.
The campaign, launched in mid-2016 after the arrests of several human rights workers and an election official, is seeking the release of more than a dozen opposition members, rights workers and land activists, including prominent Boeung Kak lake activist Tep Vanny.
Bov Sophea, one of the campaigners, said, “It’s true that they are hostages, because their release will be determined at the negotiating table. They will not be released under the law.”
Negotiations between Cambodia’s two major political parties, the Cambodia National Rescue Party and Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, have stalled, observers say.
Hun Sen has also recently moved to strike from the parliamentary regulations a rule granting the opposition president a symbolic rank equal to prime minister.
He has accused the opposition of trying to use the rule to argue for the release of the prisoners, which he said was a violation of the separation of powers.
Sok Eysan, CPP spokesman, declined to comment.
Leng Peng Long, National Assembly spokesman, said it had not yet received a letter requesting the rules be amended.
Meas Ny, a social researcher, said the “prisoners of conscience” would remain behind bars longer if the rules were amended.
“They would still be a political tool that would be used to bring down the popularity of Kem Sokha and weaken the opposition party,” he said.