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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anti-Thai protests blocked

Anti-Thai protests blocked

090716_03
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan (left) and union leader Rong Chhun (right) speak at separate press events Wednesday.

City Hall halts demonstration marking one-year anniversary of Thai troops' border incursion near Preah Vihear temple.

MUNICIPAL authorities prevented about 150 members of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) from holding a demonstration in front of the old National Assembly building on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of Thai troops crossing the border near Preah Vihear temple, CCU members said.

Instead, CCU leaders held a press conference at their office, during which they aired their grievances about the Thai government's handling of the Preah Vihear issue as well as the Cambodian government's decision to halt their demonstration plans.

"We express today as a day against Siam's invasion of our Cambodia," CCU President Rong Chhun said during the press conference, adding that the group's attempt to mark the anniversary would have been a show of nationalism that would have encouraged the Thai government to acknowledge the 1962 World Court ruling that stated that Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said his entire group became frustrated when it was barred from demonstrating in front of the old National Assembly building.

"This is not an issue that belongs to an individual. This is a national issue," he said.

City Hall on Wednesday sent a letter, signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, to the CCU informing it that its plans to stage a public protest against Thailand's military actions along the border near Preah Vihear temple had not been approved.

The letter did not offer any explanation as to why the protest would not be permitted.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Thursday that the government did not want the demonstrators to wreak havoc on traffic in the capital, adding that the intention was not for the government to prevent members of the CCU from expressing their opinions.

"I just don't want them protesting in roads because it is not civilised," he said.

At a separate press conference Wednesday, Phay Siphan said that Cambodia had enough troops to defend itself should Thailand decide to enter Cambodian territory, though he said the military's policy was to avoid using force unless it was deemed absolutely necessary.

Phay Siphan said the international community supported Cambodia in the Preah Vihear dispute, which has erupted in violence several times since UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to list the temple as a World Heritage site last July.

He said some of Thailand's actions with regard to the temple were attempts to stoke nationalist fervor within Thailand.

"If Thailand continues to use the issue ... for political reasons ... then it will lose support from the international community," he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

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