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Cambodia police free 5 activists held in crackdown

January 6, 2014

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian police released five women activists who were detained earlier Monday after trying to petition the French Embassy for help in freeing anti-government protesters arrested last week.

The five were picked up by plainclothes police on their way to the embassy, according to the local rights group LICADHO and the family of one of the women.

Police released them hours later after they signed a document stating they would not incite to protest or join demonstrations, said LICADHO activist Om Sam Ath.

The women activists were seeking help for 23 people who were recently arrested in connection with labor and political protests. Police shot dead at least four people at a labor rally Friday, and opposition leaders have been summoned in court to answer accusations of inciting social unrest.

The protests are the biggest challenge in many years to the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the country for almost three decades. Protests over the election have been generally peaceful, but a strike by workers in Cambodia’s key garment sector has put extra pressure on Hun Sen’s regime.

Authorities on Saturday banned rallies and street marches in the capital, Phnom Penh, and forcibly cleared about 1,000 anti-government demonstrators from a city park.

Sam Rainsy, the head of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said he won’t give up peaceful protests to force Hun Sen to resign and call fresh elections. The opposition claims elections in July were rigged and cheated them of victory.

The women who were held Monday are veteran protesters against land-grabbing.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

Update hourly