Earlier this morning, January 23rd, Yorm Bopha and about 20 other people from Boeung Kak, Borei Keila, and the SOS community gathered in front of the US embassy. At 9am they began their march to the UN building where they planned to submit a petition to Mr. Surya Subedi, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia.
As they walked by Yey Penh Park, the protesters were blocked by over 50 Phnom Penh Municipality security guards. The demonstrators were not permitted to go any further so they decided to call tuk-tuks. The security guards were not happy with this, saying it would cause a traffic jam. Bizarrely, the guards insisted that they would call different tuk-tuks.
Seeing this a delaying tactic, the protesters disagreed and tried to get in the tuk-tuks they had already called. At this point, both sides were shouting at each other and the security guards started pulling people out of the tuk-tuks. Some of the activists including Chray Nim (SOS), Sath Tha (former BKL), and Uy Yurou (BKL) were seen being pushed to the ground and slapped by some of the guards.
The violence stopped there, however, and the security guards eventually called more tuk-tuks for the protesters. They arrived at the UN building around 10am but Mr. Subedi was busy in meetings so he could not come out to meet them immediately.
Less than an hour later, 60 people from the Preah Vihear community joined Bopha’s group in front of the UN. They had just come from the National Assembly where they were submitting a petition regarding a land dispute.
Around 11am, Mr. Subedi came out to accept the petition and said he would take their concerns to the government and ask for their intervention. The UN gathering remained peaceful and, after submitting the petition, the marchers disbursed.
Yorm Bopha spoke to the media at the end of the march saying that her group would take a break from protesting over the weekend. However, they plan to regroup on January 26th at the Court of Appeal, to support the 11 activists expecting the verdict of yesterday’s appeal.