More than 100 opposition supporters gathered in Phnom Penh yesterday morning for training in “defending freedom” ahead of a planned attempt to enter Freedom Park on Wednesday.
Opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua, who has been forcibly removed from the park a number of times this month, led the training at the Cambodia National Rescue Party headquarters and said the exercise educated supporters in peaceful methods of conflict resolution.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What symbolises freedom to us at the moment?’ And the answer is Freedom Park. How do we express that? By all of us going to the park,” she said. “The methodology we were teaching is nonviolence, nonviolence, nonviolence.”
The training session, Sochua said, included role play and a screening of a documentary. The group also discussed who will be responsible for taking photos and how women will be protected.
Sochua has been on a one-woman crusade this month to enter Freedom Park, which still has a ban on public gatherings in place.
Last Monday – the last time she attempted to enter the park – security forces attacked a peaceful crowd of supporters, journalists and NGO workers, injuring at least 10.
Today, Sochua and fellow CNRP lawmaker-elect Lim Kim-Ya, who was struck on the face by a guard during the melee, will file charges against Daun Penh District Deputy Governor Sok Penh Vuth, who they claim ordered the attacks.
Afterwards, Sochua says she will take footage of the violence to the diplomatic corps and European Union.
Penh Vuth could not be reached for comment.
Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said yesterday his officers will “use force to force [the CNRP supporters] out” if they gather without permission.
But despite the obvious risk of violence, Sochua said the supporters at yesterday’s training share her goal.
“The youths came to me; they feel inspired and say ‘we are one.’ They are not coming to support me; they are coming because they support freedom.”
One, speaking after yesterday’s event, said he hopes to enter the park and “speak peacefully” on Wednesday. “It’s scary, but we’re not scared too much.”