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Cambodia police detain 11 activists

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January 21, 2014 12:44 AM EST | AP

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Police in Cambodia detained 11 activists Tuesday who were trying to hand over a petition to foreign embassies urging them to help free two dozen anti-government protesters arrested during a brutal crackdown this month.

Chan Saveth, an official from local human rights group Adhoc, said the activists were trying to deliver the petition to four embassies, including those of the United States and France.

The 23 people they were trying to free were arrested in early January in connection with protests against the government that posed the biggest challenge in years to the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for almost three decades.

Police could not be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear which laws the activists were accused of breaking. But the government has now banned rallies and street marches in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy, the head of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said he won't give up his movement's struggle until Hun Sen resigns and calls fresh elections. The opposition says the elections in July were rigged and cheated them of victory.