Phnom Penh, 20 January 2014 – The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) condemns the illegal arrest and detention of Mr. Sok Chhun Oeung – the Vice President of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) – at Phnom Penh’s riverside yesterday afternoon. Mr. Chhun Oeung was released today having been questioned by police in the capital. Mr. Chhun Oeung had organized a rally demanding the release of IDEA President Vorn Pao, arrested on 02 January 2014. The arrest of Mr. Chunn Oeung raised the tally to 24 people arrested in a government crackdown against garment workers asking for a raise to the minimum wage. A further five people have been killed. ADHOC urges the international community to join it in reminding the government that freedom of assembly is fundamental in a democracy and that the arbitrary arrest of a union leader is contrary to international standards which protect this right. 

Mr. Chhun Oeung had planned to hold a rally at Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh yesterday, but changed venue to a small shrine opposite the royal palace on seeing dozens of security guards in motorcycle helmets and brandishing batons. Security guards have been acting as an auxiliary of the police for months, intimidating and attacking protesters with impunity. ADHOC has repeatedly called on the Phnom Penh Municipality to put a halt to the use of these thugs to break up demonstrations, and reiterates that call today.

Protesters sang a few songs and the rally came to an end. Riot police then bundled Mr. Chhun Oeung into a car and took him away. Lawyers sent by rights groups were not been allowed access to Mr. Chhun Oeung.

The arrest and detention of Mr. Chhun Oeung is yet further proof that this government has no respect for the law. The right to free assembly is explicitly protected under the constitution. Instead of wasting resources in order to choke the right to free assembly and arrest peaceful protesters the government would do better to investigate the killings of 5 people by security forces on 03 January 2013. In the meantime, the government must now release Mr. Vorn Pao together with the 22 other prisoners arrested and detained in relation to protests earlier this month.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Human Rights and Legal Aid Section: 011 274 959

Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant: Human Rights and Legal Aid Section; 092 648 318;