CNRP Wants to Go Back to Black
Opposition member Eng Chhay Eang called on people to restart the Black Monday campaign, an effort by protesters to secure the release of five civil society workers who have been imprisoned since April for connections to an alleged sex scandal involving acting opposition leader Kem Sokha.
The five – four Adhoc officials and one National Election Committee (NEC)member – have been held in Prey Sar prison since April 28 on charges of bribery after they attempted to help the woman alleged to be a mistress of Mr. Sokha.
The woman, Khom Chandaraty, was summoned for questioning by police in connection to the scandal, which was rooted in a series of audio clips leaked to Facebook purporting to be phone conversations between her and Mr. Sokha.
She expressed fear and confusion over the questioning and Adhoc offered to hire a lawyer for her and explain police and court procedures.
But later, Ms. Chandaraty allegedly told police that Adhoc officials had instructed her to lie to them. Police eventually arrested the four Adhoc officials – Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda and Lim Mony – as well as Ny Chakrya, an NEC member who used to work for Adhoc, on charges of bribery. UN official Soen Sally was indicted but has immunity as a UN official.
They have all spent more than 100 days in prison.
All five say the “bribe” police are referring to is a food and transportation stipend given to everyone seeking Adhoc’s assistance.
Scores of people began Black Monday protests, donning black clothing and marching in the hopes of securing the release of the five. The government cracked down on the protests, beating and arresting those found in black supporting the campaign.
The government repeatedly said they had to stop the protesters because they were “starting a color revolution,” a reference to a series of nonviolent demonstrations in former Soviet Union states in the early 2000s.
Mr. Chhay Eang, a member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told Khmer Times that his party supports the campaign and wanted more people to get involved every Monday, adding that the CNRP headquarters could serve as an initial gathering place.
“We demand the government drop the charges and release the political and human rights activists who have been detained in prison,” Mr. Chhay Eang said. “In preparation for the possibility of a Black Monday campaign, the people can join and wear black clothes every Monday at our party offices if they want.”
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, treated the statement as a revelation, and seemed under the impression that it was the opposition fomenting the protests, rather than the arrest of the human rights officials.
He warned of a tough “crackdown” on protests if they “break any laws.”
“Regarding the CNRP statement, it shows us the exact people who are behind the Black Monday campaign,” he said.
In response, Mr. Chhay Eang said his party was not worried about any government crackdown because everything would be held at their party office.
“We will only do it at our party office, so it will not have any negative impact on national security at all,” he said.
The government has been able to turn the Black Monday protests into a clarion call for its own supporters, consistently and erroneously telling them the demonstrations were an attempt to overthrow the government by both local and foreign entities.
In June Hun Manith, a son of Prime Minister Hun Sen and director of the Defense Ministry’s military intelligence unit, went so far as to tell Khmer Times that the demonstrations were an attempt to “create a negative image of the government.”
He continued to deny that the allegedly politically motivated arrests of human rights officials had anything to do with how the government was perceived abroad and by its own people, only continuing to repeat that the protests were a threat to his father’s power.
The paranoia of the ruling party reached even further heights in May during a closed-door meeting between Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon and US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt. American officials were forced to deny any involvement in the Black Monday protests after local government-aligned media outlets accused the US of tacitly backing the campaign.
Throughout the demonstrations, police have violently arrested and detained protesters, often releasing them the same day after forcing them to promise not to do it again.
Yesterday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a warrant summoning Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) executive director Pa Nguon Teang to appear as a witness in the trial.
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