Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng yesterday told city police officials that people who protest against decisions made by the courts are breaking the law.
Mr Sreng made the comments as he presided over a ceremony to provide police in the capital with 175 new vehicles to help maintain public order and security.
He said the city has often seen protests demanding that suspects be released outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.
“They have no right to go against the court,” said Mr Sreng.
The Governor said the authorities have been lenient with protesters in the past but could no longer allow people to challenge the courts.
“We have advised them not to do it many times and cannot forgive them any more,” said Mr Sreng.
Mr Sreng added that protesters defend their actions by saying they are just exercising freedom of expression.
He said they are permitted to protest if they are doing so on principle or to ask for something like an increase in their salary, however if they ask the courts to rescind legal decisions, that is unacceptable.
“When they undermine the law that is like anarchy and anarchic protesting is a crime,” said Mr Sreng.
Song Srey Leap, a Boeng Kak Lake community activist who joins protests to request the release of villagers arrested in land rights cases, said it seemed as if Mr Sreng had failed to read the constitution.
Ms Srey Leap said she is not highly educated and does not understand the intricacies of the law, however she argued that peaceful protest was legal.
Ms Srey Leap said all people have the right to join protests to demand the release of innocent people, adding that she and other villagers do not demonstrate over trivial matters.
“We will continue to protest to demand the release of land activist Tep Vanny, because she is innocent,” she claimed.
Hang Pitou, leader of the Young Analysts group, said people have the right to take part in peaceful protests in any democratic society.
“The authority should actually help ease public order and traffic issues for them,” Mr Pitou added, urging City Hall to assist citizens in any way it can.