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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Motodup 'safety' group seen as CPP front

Motodup 'safety' group seen as CPP front

The Motodup Safety Association (MSA) has emerged as another pro-CPP group dedicated

to stopping opposition protests, human rights groups have reported.

The secretary general of the association, Heay Pong, said that although the association

is still relatively unknown, at least half of Phnom Penh's 5,000 motodup drivers

are members. He said the group plans to expand into the provinces as well.

But Pong denied the association had any political purpose. He said it was created

by motodup drivers solely to help one another.

Each member of the association pays monthly dues of 500 to 1,000 riel depending on

their income. Pong said the money is used to help members such as those who have

accidents or other problems.

Seng Sovannara, president of the pro-Hun Sen Khmeng Wat Association, also known as

the "Pagoda Boys", did not wish to divulge his involvement with the new

group. However, Chan Saveth, an investigator at ADHOC, a human rights NGO, said the

pro-government organizations "were more or less the same" and shared similar

political goals.

Sovannara said the association's aim was to protect drivers from abuse by the authorities

and provide help in case of accidents.

He speculated that the MSA might one day develop into a political party. Sovannara,

who lived in a pagoda for ten years beginning in 1989, said he hopes to hold political

office himself one day.

"I am developing myself toward that," he said, adding that he is studying

at the National Institute of Management for a master's degree in law.

But for now, he says, the MSA leads peaceful pro-government demonstrations.

"It's a citizen's right to demonstrate peacefully to support the government,"

he said.

Although the country's constitution ensures "the right to strike and non-violent

demonstration", critics of the association say that along with other groups

linked to the Cambodian People's Party, it intimidates opposition factions from demonstrating.

Several protests planned in the past year have produced threats of violence from

pro-CPP factions.

"The Motodup Safety Association, along with the Pagoda Boys, want to fight any

demonstrations against the government," said Ny Chakrya, an official with ADHOC.

"If there was no action from the police, those people might take some action

against [opposition] demonstrators themselves."

Not everyone feels comfortable joining the group. Motodup driver Chourn Sothea, 25,

said that another driver in Tek Tla commune asked him to join the association in

May, but he refused.

"I won't join the association unless I know its purpose clearly," said

Sothea. "I am really afraid of being cheated."

Others echoed Sothea's concern. Pou Chantheth, a motodup driver in Phnom Penh for

two years, said he suspects that the association receives money from political parties

and the organization will pressure them into demonstrating.

"They say that they help us, but I am afraid they will use us for political

reasons," Chantheth said.

But Pong insists that the group has no political connections and that its real focus

is on motodups helping one another. He said association members meet every Saturday

at the group's headquarters in Toul Kork. They discuss problems among the members

and ask for suggestions to strengthen the organization.

Several members of the Motodup Safety Association praised the camaraderie and security

it provides.

"I seem to have a back to count on being in this association," said Khem

Sophea, 30. He said he has met many more people after joining the group.

Chet, another member, said, "I am very happy to be in this association. If I

have any problem, there will surely be other members who will help me."

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