Women wearing surgical masks and claiming to be acting on behalf of authorities prevented a protest in front of the Russian Embassy on Wednesday over the jailing of a translator who helped report on child trafficking for Moscow’s RT service.
Long Kimheang, wife of the imprisoned Rath Rott Mony, gathered with supporters in front of the embassy in Phnom Penh in the morning to call on Russia’s government, which operates RT, to help secure her husband’s release.
Yet Kimheang and the others present were forcibly removed by a group of six plain-clothed and middle-aged women wearing surgical masks. They claimed to be government authorities and dragged Kimheang away from the area.
Kimheang said the women refused to identify themselves or prove they had the authority to drag her away from outside the entrance of the Russian Embassy, which is a public area.
“I demanded that if you are the police, you have to show me your cards and [said] ‘Who are you, show me your cards. You dress like this, and you have no cards, and you come to arrest me, that’s not correct,’” Kimheang said.
Rott Mony has been in jail awaiting trial for “incitement to discriminate” since December 13 for helping a foreign journalist produce the program “My Mother Sold Me,” which aired on RT in October. The program featured an interview with a girl who says her mother prostituted her but the government says the claims are false and that the program reflected poorly on Cambodia’s international reputation.
Kimheang said she believed that the six masked women were sent to harass her and her husband’s supporters in order to discourage any further protests.
“I suspect this was a set-up by the Cambodian authorities to have these women come and disturb me with bad intentions against my activities, or to come and spark violence to make an arrest or intervention from the authorities,” she said.
Kimheang said she steadfastly refused to react to the women with any violence, even when they started grabbing her clothes and pulling her down the street while she carried her child in her arms. If the Russian government still did not intervene to help secure her husband’s arrest, she added, she would continue to go to its embassy to protest undeterred.
Chamkar Mon district governor Prum Samkhan told VOD that he knew nothing about the event and referred questions to district police chief. “Ask the police,” the governor said. “Regarding matters of security, ask [police chief] Yin San.”
San said he too did not know. He referred questions back to the district governor.
Soeng Senkaruna, a spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, said it was the responsibility of government authorities to identify themselves to citizens when asked, and that Kimheang may have a case to complain about illegal harassment.
“In our Cambodian law, the relevant officers who go to complete their work have to clearly show their position to people at the scene so they know their identities,” he said. “They cannot just arrive with such behavior. If there was any provocation that happened at that place, the [legitimate] relevant officers who were present there would have to take share a responsibility for any problem that occurs.”
Kimheang and her supporters have now protested at the Russian Embassy 12 times since his arrest. There has been no response from the embassy.
Edited at 4:42 p.m., April 4 to clarify Rath Rott Mony’s role in the production of the film.
(Translated from the original articles on VOD Khmer)
Watch more on the story: