Phnom Penh municipal governor Kep Chuktema rejected a request by the biggest opposition party to hold its congress early next month in one of the capital’s public parks, according to a copy of the official letter from the city.
The Cambodian National Rescue Party – a recently formed alliance between the Human Rights and Sam Rainsy parties – wanted to hold its upcoming congress on the south side of Wat Botum Park, but the municipality said no on the grounds that public spaces should not serve as political venues.
“I would like to tell you that as per your request asking for the park in front of Botum Vatey pagoda – at the south part – for holding congress of Cambodian National Rescue Party with about 10,000 participants, Phnom Penh municipal hall would like you to find a private location,” Chuktema wrote in the letter dated March 13.
Chuktema also serves as the head of the CPP’s Phnom Penh branch.
Asked to clarify, Long Dimanche, spokesman for the Phnom Penh municipality, said that the spot is mainly used for exercising and certain kinds of ceremonies, and that holding a political meeting there would contradict the public nature of the park. It would also snarl traffic in the area, he added.
About 10,000 participants are expected to attend the congress on April 7.
“If a political party asks for that spot, another political party will also ask. That area cannot be allowed for political use,” Dimanche said.
Pol Ham, deputy president of the CNRP’s temporary committee, disagreed.
“The absolute ruling group thinks that all state properties belong to them only, both public areas and state institutions,” Ham said.
He wasn’t surprised with the rejection, however, saying that the government “always” denies opposition party requests.
With the congress less than two weeks away, the CNRP still has not made a decision on a backup place for the event.
“We will hold it anywhere we can,” Ham said.
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