Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong yesterday lashed out at civil society groups he blamed for instigating protests aimed at destabilising the government.
The governor’s comments came a day after protesters rallied to mark the second anniversary of violent clashes on Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard in January 2014, which ended with four protesters killed by authorities, and another missing and presumed dead.
Riot police and municipal security were criticised for using heavy-handed tactics while policing the small remembrance gathering on Veng Sreng on Sunday.
“We must preserve the peace, because it has been hard-fought,” Socheatvong said yesterday at a meeting of security officials.
“There are forces masterminding events behind the scenes to make instability,” he added. “The people behind this want to condemn the government and authorities for their own political interests.”
The authorities on Sunday accused those gathering at Veng Sreng of having held a political event under the guise of a religious ceremony for the dead – for which groups do not legally need to give notice.
Socheatvong called on the unnamed NGOs he claimed were promoting frictions to “release people and stop teaching our people about protesting”, which he claimed had led to “professional” protesters who had been taught “to fall down, roll around on the floor, all sorts of things”.