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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CNRP's Sunday 'tsunami'

An estimated 100,000 plus opposition supporters take to the streets on Sunday demanding Prime Minister Hun Sen resign and call fresh elections
An estimated 100,000 plus opposition supporters take to the streets on Sunday demanding Prime Minister Hun Sen resign and call fresh elections. Hong Menea

CNRP's Sunday 'tsunami'

A crowd of more than 100,000 demonstrators took to Phnom Penh’s streets yesterday, calling for new elections or the resignation of Prime Minister Hun Sen in the biggest outpouring of support for the Cambodia National Rescue Party since opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned from self-imposed exile in July.

“We will not stop the protests if our demands are not met,” CNRP vice president Kem Sokha told the crowd at Freedom Park before the march. “I would like to appeal to all of you to stick to nonviolence during the rally.”

Estimates of the size of the crowd varied widely, with Rainsy writing on his Facebook page that “about 500,000” people had joined the march. “A political tsunami has started in Cambodia,” Rainsy told supporters before the rally began.

Even the government, which usually provides conservative figures of attendance at opposition protests, recognised the scale of yesterday’s demonstration.

Long Dimanche, Phnom Penh Municipality spokesman, said he estimated that about 100,000 people took part in the march.

“We are watching the people who are joining the rally. We estimate about 100,000 people joined the demonstration, not 500,000 as the CNRP has claimed,” he said, adding that the “inflated” figure of 500,000 included mostly bystanders and people stuck in the traffic.

Rally-goers were in high spirits as they left Freedom Park at about 2:45pm and headed south along the arterial Monivong Boulevard.

An opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party supporter eggs on the crowd as an estimated 100,000 plus people march through Phnom Penh
An opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party supporter eggs on the crowd as an estimated 100,000 plus people march through Phnom Penh at a demonstration on Sunday. Hong Menea

After more than an hour spent at a standstill, the march continued, turning right onto Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, then north past Olympic Stadium and back to the park.

In a good-humoured jab at the powers that be, one demonstrator dressed as Santa Claus held aloft a placard comparing Prime Minister Hun Sen to a Christmas turkey.

“I want to wish Hun Sen to have a Merry Christmas and step down,” he said.

A significant contingent of monks, increasingly visible at post-election rallies, joined yesterday’s demonstration. The monks have been warned repeatedly by Cambodia’s Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong that taking part in the rallies could lead to defrocking.

Rainsy raised the issue of monks becoming politicised after the rally yesterday evening.

“I have received information that the authorities plan to ill-treat monks, because they are concerned that the monks will protest at every pagoda,” he claimed.

The CNRP has said it plans to block several major roads into the capital as part of the daily protests, which enter their ninth day today, and the temporary blockage of one of the city’s main thoroughfares came under fire from the authorities yesterday.

“The road users were held hostage,” City Hall’s Dimanche said. “We understand they [protesters] have the right to exercise their freedom, but they are violating others’ rights.”

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said that while it was the right of people to demonstrate, if public order was affected, armed police may be forced to intervene.

“Holding peaceful demonstrations is the right of people stated in the law,” he said. “But if the demonstrations seriously affect public order and security…it will be necessary to take action to guarantee social stability.”

Thousands of Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters fill Freedom Park during a demonstration in Phnom Penh
Thousands of Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters fill Freedom Park during a demonstration in Phnom Penh. Vireak Mai

The opposition maintains that protests will continue daily until a new election is called or Hun Sen steps down. But in an address to the nation on Friday, the Cambodian People’s Party leader dismissed calls for his resignation.

“I would like to confirm that there will be no new election, because no one can dissolve parliament,” he said in the speech, adding that he had “done nothing wrong” and therefore did not need to resign.

He also slammed the CNRP decision to block roads in the capital.

“[Blocking roads] does not affect the royal government, or institutions of the state; it affects people; it is an illegal act,” he said. “Blocking of roads is the blocking of our blood. The royal government has remained calm to respect the rights of people to hold peaceful demonstrations. But the government will not agree with any…illegal act.”

Kem Sokha responded to Hun Sen’s speech after yesterday’s rally.

“[Hun Sen] said that he has not done anything wrong. If he says this, come to meet with people here [at Freedom Park] so that people can tell him about his mistakes.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA

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Comments

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vantheman's picture

You go CNRP! We are always behind you.God bless you all.

himphannary's picture

How can the Cambodia Royal Government ignore this fact

jim2014's picture

[Hun Sen] said that he has done anything wrong. Yes sure mister! Hun Sen, You and your gangs of mafia sell land and rose wood to Illegal traders...and steal votes from people.

Victor's picture

Mr. Hun Sen ruled Cambodia over 28 years and has many chances to do good things for Cambodian people, but he chose not to do it. Under Hun Sen corrupt power, millions of Cambodian people are getting poorer and some of them sold their kids to brothel for survival and some people become a beggar in Thailand. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodian people were forced evicted. For these reasons, majority of Cambodian people don’t want to vote for him because they don’t like him. Hun Sen commits so many crimes since he joins the Khmer Rouge and he has a lot of sin—rot in hell.Because majority of Cambodian people call for change, they did not vote for Mr. Hun Sen/CPP so he did not win the July 28, 2013 election and he robbed it. He did not want to call for the immediate re-election or investigate the election fraud that requested by the opposition Sam Rainsy/CNRP because he knows that he is not going to win---majority supports Rainsy/CNRP.Mr. Hun Sen, please steps down /resigns so someone else can have a chance to lead Cambodia to improve the living conditions there so people there can enjoy and live in peace. Over 28 years of ruling is enough.The People Power will change Hun Sen and his regime for sure at the end because majority of people are fed up with his cruelties mentioned above.

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