Police Pressure Villagers Over Facebook Comment

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Police in Mondulkiri’s Bousra commune have called four village representatives in for questioning over a Facebook post published as part of the Black Monday campaign, with police asking the villagers to take it down.
 
Kroeun Tola, one of the village representatives, said his fellow representative Klang Phou was called in for questioning by commune police chief Soeun Sophak last Monday at about 10pm after villagers published a photo on Facebook requesting the release of four Adhoc officials and a National Election Committee official.
 
They were all charged and detained for their alleged involvement in the Kem Sokha sex scandal.
 
He said that at about 5:30am the next day Mr. Sophak called Mr. Phou and Srek Tech, another representative, while he and Mr. Phou were called again on Monday.
 
Mr. Tola said he was asked by police who had published the post. He replied that the villagers, being taught their rights on freedom of expression by NGO workers, posted it themselves.
 
“NGOs help us a lot. So, when their staff is in trouble, we have to help them back. No one is behind us,” he said.
 
Police then asked the villagers to remove the post from Facebook and issue a correction on the statement they made, to which the villagers refused.
 
“We could not follow what they have been asking us to do, because it was us who posted those pictures, so it’s impossible to deny those pictures,” Mr. Tola said.
 
Despite repeated attempts, Mr. Sophak was not available for comment.
 
Sok Ratha, a coordinator working for Adhoc in Mondulkiri province, said what the community did was legal and they had the right to ask for the release of the detained human rights staff.
 
“I think it’s the authorities who are constantly posing a threat to villagers who are using their rights limited by law,” said Mr. Ratha.
 
Last week, eight people including Ee Sarum, executive director of the Sahakum Teang Tnaut, and Thao Kimsan, vice-president of the advocate office of Licadho, were arrested during the government’s crackdown on the Black Monday campaign, while five more were arrested for Monday’s protests.
 
The government has slammed the protests, calling them a color revolution that is part of a broader conspiracy to bring down the government, with critics blasting the government’s heavy handed tactics against political dissent.

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