At least 12 activists and CNRP supporters have been arrested this week, according to National Police, in at least one case for incitement for “supporting the betrayal” of the outlawed opposition party’s continued activities.
National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun said that on Monday, two people were arrested in Tbong Khmum province and three others in Phnom Penh. On Tuesday, two more were arrested in Tbong Khmum and five people in Oddar Meanchey province.
One of the 12 arrested was released after being “educated,” but the rest were being processed by the court for potential incitement charges, he said.
Among those arrested in Tbong Khmum on Monday was Om Yeath, 66, a former CNRP district councilor in Suong city. Yeath was among those who turned out to support former CNRP members who were sentenced for plotting at the Tbong Khmum Provincial Court in September.
His wife, Nguon Phalla, said Yeath was handcuffed while he was out on his farm around 3 p.m. Monday, and taken to court.
“I saw him when he walked out of the courtroom,” Phalla said. “I told him to be strong, since you are innocent. And he replied that he would be strong.”
Kong Saphea, a former CNRP official now living abroad, posted on his Facebook page that the others arrested included CNRP activists as well as members of nationalist youth activism group Khmer Thavrak.
Licadho monitoring manager Am Sam Ath said the arrests could be related to trials happening in Phnom Penh, with authorities seeking to prevent gatherings and protests.
“It shows they don’t want to see any peaceful gatherings in front of the court,” Sam Ath said. “It could cause criticism about restricting people’s freedoms and rights to peacefully gather.”
Last week, another court protester was arrested in Oddar Meanchey. Kim Khoen said the man, Pen Chan Sangkream, was charged with incitement to disturb social security.
An arrest warrant for Chan Sangkream by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court was dated August 24. Chan Sangkream posted Facebook videos in August urging the release of unionist Rong Chhun, who was arrested late July over comments he made about the border with Vietnam. The video says the government does not dare to “challenge the yuon,” using a derogatory word for Vietnamese people.
Chan Sangkream’s brother, Pen Puthsaphea, said the renewed crackdown would backfire.
“This arrest is to silence rights and is Hun Sen’s move to intimidate people, but instead the anger of local people and the international community will burn even more,” Puthsaphea said.