A Cambodian appeals court on Tuesday refused the release of 21 people arrested last month in connection with anti-government protests, a series of demonstrations comprised mostly of garment workers and rights activists. According to defense lawyer [AP report] Sam Sokong, the court reasoned that the release of these detainees would negatively affect public order as well as efforts to conduct investigations. None of the 21 defendants was present for the hearing, and media was prevented entry [VOA report] into the courtroom.
The political atmosphere in Cambodia has been tense since last year's elections. In January the International Labour Organization (ILO) [official website] called for cooperation amongst all parties involved in escalating violence in Cambodia, demanding a release of detained union strikers and a government probe into anti-protest police tactics [JURIST report]. Earlier that month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged [JURIST report] Cambodian authorities to exercise restraint when dealing with protestors. Days beforehand, Cambodia banned rallies and marches [Al Jazeera report] in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and authorities removed more than 1,000 anti-government protesters [BBC report] from the capital the same day. Phnom Penh's governor Pa Socheatvong further stated that until "public order is restored to normal," the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party would not be permitted to hold demonstrations [AFP report].