Construction on the new controversial Freedom Park along National Road 5 will finish next month, according to Phnom Penh’s City Hall. A designated protest area since 2010, the original Freedom Park in Daun Penh district was the site of the CNRP’s post-election protests in 2013, until their violent dispersal by masked thugs.
City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey yesterday said that construction will end in the middle of May, allowing the park to open before the commune elections. The new, 8,000-square-metre park is nearly double the size of the original, said Measpheakdey. ‘We have the possibility to allow a lot of [people] to gather if there is permission,’ he said.
However, critics of the park say the move intends to hide political protests and state violence from view, and Naly Pilorge, of the rights group Licadho, yesterday rejected the idea of designated areas for political expression entirely.
‘These designated places, old or new, are just ways to control and stop citizens from exercising their legal rights,’ she said. CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who once led a series of protests to reopen the then-closed Freedom Park, declined to comment on what the new location would mean for political expression, saying she had yet to visit.