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Officials break up Kem Ley gathering

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Chamkarmon district authorities on Wednesday stopped 20 youths and 10 monks from gathering to commemorate the fourth anniversary of political activist Kem Ley’s murder at a Caltex petrol station at the Bokor traffic light in the capital’s Tonle Bassac commune. Hong Menea

Officials break up Kem Ley gathering

Chamkarmon district authorities on Wednesday stopped 20 youths and 10 monks from gathering to commemorate the fourth anniversary of political activist Kem Ley’s murder at a Caltex petrol station at the Bokor traffic light in the capital’s Tonle Bassac commune.

Authorities also took a 30-year-old man named Khan Chanthorn away for questioning after they saw him enter the petrol station wearing a t-shirt with a photo of Ley printed on it.

Boeung Trabek commune police chief Hong Chantheng told The Post on Wednesday that the youths and monks left the petrol station area after being advised by local authorities to do so.

District authorities had previously banned such commemorations.

Chantheng said: “A man wearing a t-shirt with Kem Ley’s picture entered Caltex petrol station. We allowed him to go back home after an hour of questioning. We just educated him and made him sign a contract.

“We did not detain him just because he wore that t-shirt. He did not do anything that caused social disorder. He said he was riding his bicycle along that road. He saw the crowd and went to see it. He did not know anything,” he said.

District governor Theng Sothol and district police chief Yin San could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

At a district administration press conference on Tuesday, the petrol station’s owner requested authorities to help ensure that business ran normally and there were no disturbances.

In line with the law, the administration said it will take measures to ban gatherings in the area as per the request of the petrol station owner. Furthermore, public order and security needed to be upheld.

According to protest laws, those who want to express opinions must go to Freedom Park, Chantheng said.

The Ministry of Health also banned all types of gatherings in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The district administration said they had no choice but to enforce the laws.

Thon Ratha, an environmental activist who joined the commemoration said on Wednesday that youths and monks planned to gather and pray for the soul of Ley who was killed on July 10, 2016.

Ratha said it was interrupted by the authorities who said they could not hold a gathering. The owner of the station, he said, also requested help to maintain public order and security.

“I am sorry about this but I think our action was not illegal. We did this just to give opinions and join social work,” he said.

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