Phnom Penh City Hall once again rejected the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s bid to hold campaigns for the coming council elections in Freedom Park yesterday but said the final decision is beyond its reach.
After its first request was rejected on Tuesday for going against a National Election Committee (NEC) order banning permanent campaign bases, the CNRP filed a second bid with City Hall yesterday.
In the new letter, the CNRP asked for permission to use either Freedom Park or Wot Botum during specific dates of the campaign period, which takes place between May 2 and 16, including its opening and closure. But, once again, the response was far from positive.
“With Democracy Square [Freedom Park], it is certain that we cannot give permission,” Phnom Penh Municipal deputy governor Khuong Sreng said yesterday.
A ban on public gatherings is in place in the park, where security forces used violence to remove opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua and a peaceful crowd earlier this week. Sreng said that City Hall would still consider allowing the CNRP to use the park near Wot Botum. But, he said, the decision ultimately fell to the Ministry of Interior and the Provincial Election Commission (PEC).
Sreng did not elaborate on when a final ruling under instructions of the PEC and Interior Ministry might be made.
In yesterday’s letter, the CNRP said it expected between 3,000 and 5,000 people to join its campaigning at the sites as well as marches along Phnom Penh’s roads.
Morn Phalla, president of the CNRP’s executive committee in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that if the latest request is also denied, the party will look for other, unspecified locations.
Observers have labelled the upcoming council election as “undemocratic” as voting is only open to current commune council members.