Activists in Cambodia have been urging the public to wear a black T-shirt every Monday since May 9, to support the release of human rights activists from the group ADHOC, who were jailed by the government.
The campaign is simply called “black Monday,” but the government calls it an “urban insurrection” and has treated it as such, using oppressive measures.
For instance, the government requires permission for people to protest by registering for a permit and protesters also have to get permission to post on social media such as Facebook, from the Cambodian government.
Radio Free Asia reports that authorities clashed with villagers in the capital of Phnom Penh on May 23, in the “Black Monday” campaign’s third week since the arrest.
The protesters had a display of lotus flowers and candles which were arranged to form the words “Free Human Rights Defenders.”
A month ago, authorities arrested four members of the ADHOC group and one election official and charged them with bribery over what they claim is their role in a sex scandal with the minority leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Kem Sokha.
The Cambodian government majority are members of the rival right-wing Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), who hold more senate and house seats than the CNRP.
On Monday this week, the Associated Press reported that police prevented protesters from reaching the palace, but allowed opposition leaders from the CPP to pass and deliver a petition to the king, accusing the sitting Cambodian government of intimidation.
According to the report, critics say that Prime Minister Hun Sen is trying to cripple the CNRP before the 2018 general election, because they almost won in 2013, and would have if it wasn’t for what they feel was orchestrated electoral fraud.
Evidence of this were found in recordings anonymously posted on Facebook of intimate phone calls, which under the rule of government, could not only result in his removal but his imprisonment as well.
Currently, the threat from the government is over the protesters getting permission to march, but the report also says that a National Assembly session which was being boycotted by the liberal CNRP party, voted to “endorse court orders allowing the arrest of Kem Sokha.”
The CPP has been the ruling party for over three decades and with the accusation of election fraud, they were boycotted by the CNRP, who also accused the CPP of political harassment when criminal cases were filed against them.
The situation caught the attention of the United Nations Human Rights organization, who issued a statement on May 12, urging the Cambodian authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment for defenders of human rights and civil society.
“The Secretary-General is, indeed, concerned about the escalating tensions between the ruling and the opposition parties in Cambodia, particularly the arrests or attempted arrests of parliamentarians, who enjoy parliamentary immunity. A non-threatening environment of democratic dialogue is essential for political stability and a peaceful and prosperous society.”
This dialogue was reportedly the intention of the opposition-minority CNRP when they boycotted the CPP government during 2013-2014.
Corrections made [1:08 PM – 06-05-2016]
[Image by Heng Sinith/AP Photo]