Activists, cops clash at palace

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post  19 June 2013

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Protesters fight back against police while delivering a petition to the Royal Palace yesterday. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

At least two protesters fainted and a third was injured yesterday after Boeung Kak villagers clashed with police in front of the Royal Palace.

Some 30 residents, including approximately a dozen children, descended on the palace yesterday in the hope of submitting a petition to Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, pleading for a birthday intervention on behalf of imprisoned activist Yorm Bopha.

More than 100 hoped to join the protest but, like the day before, were blocked from leaving their Daun Penh community by a phalanx of police officers.

The handful who made it to the palace, however, were met by more than 60 officers and riot police, who quickly cracked down on the protesters.

Security forces grabbed at portraits of Bopha, enraging the activists who began hitting at the officers with sarongs and attempting to push them back.

Municipal police chief Choun Sovann later defended the actions, saying tight security was necessary given the ongoing UNESCO conference.

After the brief clash, the protesters stood back, and began reading their petition over loudspeakers. The group dispersed after two officials from the palace came out and received the letter.

The embattled community has been calling for the release of the activist who last week lost her appeal over convictions of intentional violence. Arrested in September, Bopha stands accused of masterminding an attack on two motodops – a charge she and her supporters call politically motivated.

According to human rights group Licadho, Bopha filed an appeal with the Sup-reme Court on Monday.

Speaking at the protest, fellow activist Tep Vanny insisted the group had no intention to clash with the authorities.

“We came here only to submit our petition asking the Queen Mother to help intervene and free Yorm Bopha because she has not committed as accused.”

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