- POSTED: 06 Jan 2014 21:52
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Five Cambodian land rights campaigners were detained for several hours Monday in the latest move by the government of strongman premier Hun Sen to suppress street protests, activists said.
PHNOM PENH: Five Cambodian land rights campaigners were detained for several hours Monday in the latest move by the government of strongman premier Hun Sen to suppress street protests, activists said.
The women were pushed into a van as they prepared to stage a rally in front of the French embassy to call for the release of other imprisoned human rights defenders, witnesses said.
They were freed without charge after about eight hours in custody but were warned to stop their protests, according to one of the activists.
"The authorities seriously violated our rights," prominent land rights campaigner Tep Vanny told AFP after her release, vowing to keep up efforts to help victims of forced evictions.
The activists are from the Boeung Kak community, where thousands of families have been displaced to make way for a private development at a lakeside area in the capital Phnom Penh.
Rights campaigners criticised their detention as part of a wider campaign by Hun Sen's government to silence its critics.
Police have indefinitely banned further rallies after several demonstrators were shot dead on Friday.
"Cambodian authorities appear to have given up any semblance of democracy, rule of law or justice," said Tola Moeun of local rights group the Community Legal Education Centre.
"These women were clearly doing nothing wrong. The big questions are what is next and who will be next? This madness must end now."
Officials could not be reached for comment.
Hun Sen faces an increasing challenge to his nearly three-decade rule from striking garment workers as well as from opposition supporters demanding that he step down and call a new election because of alleged fraud in last July's vote.
Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha have been summoned to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 14 for questioning in connection with the recent unrest.
The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) accused authorities of refusing to disclose the place of detention of at least 23 other people who were arrested and charged during the crackdowns in Phnom Penh last week.
The opposition party has boycotted parliament since the July election, alleging that Hun Sen was returned to power because of widespread vote-rigging.
The 61-year-old prime minister has ruled for 28 years and vowed to continue until he is 74.
He has faced mounting criticism over his rights record as well as accusations of excessive force against demonstrators.
On Friday police opened fire on striking garment factory employees demanding a minimum wage of $160 per month for their work in an industry which supplies brands like Gap, Nike and H&M.
Rights activists said at least four civilians were shot dead in what they described as the country's worst state violence against its citizens in 15 years.
A day later dozens of security personnel armed with shields and batons chased hundreds of protesters -- including monks, women and children -- from their rally base in a park in the capital, according to activists.