Three activists from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were arrested this week, on charges related to violent demonstrations in 2014, party officials and lawyers say.
The arrests add to those already made in the wake of the demonstrations, near Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, in July last year. At least 40 city security personnel were injured when demonstrators attacked them.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday called for authorities to make more such arrests, following the sentencing of 11 other activists who were charged for “insurrection” for allegedly leading the demonstration and attacks and now face up to 20 years in jail.
Opposition officials strongly oppose the arrests, claiming the charges are disproportionate to the events.
“Up to now, three activists were arrested,” said Ou Chanrith, a lawyer for the Rescue Party. “Two of them have been sent to Prey Sar prison already.” The arrests are a violation of political agreements made between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Rescue Party, he said. “These arrests are politically motivated.”
Two of the three activists—Roeun Chetra, 28, and Yun Khem Huor, 33—were arrested on Tuesday, while Yea Thong, 43, was arrested on Wednesday.
Sam Sok Kong, a lawyer for the activists, told VOA Khmer the arrests came hours after the courts issued five warrants on Tuesday. But he said the charges and arrests are being made on very thin evidence. “My clients were photographed among the protestors. They were there to join a peaceful protest, but they did not commit any violence.”
On Monday, Hun Sen called on his authorities to arrest all people involved in the violence near Freedom Park and called on seven lawmakers to show up to court or be arrested.
“Don’t say this issue is involved in politics,” Hun Sen said in a public speech on Monday. “Look at the July 22 agreement again; there is no agreement that overrules the penal code.”
But the arrests appear are also coming amidst new tensions between the CPP and the Rescue Party, over the opposition’s call for an end to alleged Vietnamese border encroachment, a typically sensitive matter for the government.
Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told VOA Khmer that the arrests are being made as a result of Hun Sen’s remarks this week, in which he “reminded” authorities to enforce the orders of the court.