Marches through the capital will take place as part of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s days-long sit-in, scheduled to begin on Sunday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said.
“We will march through Phnom Penh.… We will stay [at Freedom Park] day and night,” Rainsy told thousands of vendors and onlookers during a public speech at the O’Russey Market in the capital’s Prampi Makara district.
The opposition leader’s announcement came as a government spokesman said a force of 60,000 people, many of them police and military police, had worked on election security since campaigning began in June.
The CNRP announced on Monday it would stage another mass demonstration in the form of a peaceful sit-in for at least three days at Freedom Park, where thousands gathered to protest against “vote-rigging” last Saturday.
According to final results released on Sunday, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won the July 28 election, earning 68 seats compared to the opposition’s 55.
Rainsy, who said again yesterday that his party would boycott parliament later this month if election irregularities are not addressed, did not provide planned march routes and times.
Phnom Penh Municipal Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng warned that authorities would take action if they marched outside the permitted demonstrating times of 6am to 6pm.
“And maybe there is no hope for them to [even] sleep at [Freedom Park],” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan would not confirm yesterday how many troops or police would be deployed, but said the figure would be “proportionate” to the number of demonstrators.
“We will use the people who are already [assigned],” he said.
Those personnel, he added, came from a pool of about 60,000 government employees, including police and military police, assigned to work on election-related security under Minister of Interior Sar Kheng.
“The committee has overseen law and order during the election process – it’s still going on now,” Siphan said. “It costs a lot.”
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said his party hoped to attract up to 50,000 people to Freedom Park and was exploring the possibility of spilling crowds into nearby public spaces such as Wat Phnom to ease congestion.
“There will be three days straight of staying all night,” he said. “Senior party officials will be there to take charge of the situation.”
Chhay said the party would provide toilets, rubbish collectors and tents, while supporters had pledged food and raincoats.
“All facilities are planned,” he said, adding the CNRP would have a medical team on hand. “Tents will be in place and people will be able to get a lot of shade.”
The CNRP yesterday sent a letter to Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong informing him of the sit-in. It does not, however, mention the party’s intention to march, and Chhay said he was not aware of any such plans.
“On September 7, people were upset we didn’t allow them to march,” he said. “We don’t know if we can keep them there. If they decide to go somewhere, the party will have to follow what they want and find all means to protect them.”
Military police spokesman Kheng Tito would not confirm exactly how many troops would be deployed or had served through the election period, during which armoured personnel carriers have cruised the streets.
“I can say thousands of military have been deployed in Phnom Penh,” he said.
Union leaders yesterday were trying to deploy their thousands of members to support the CNRP sit-in. Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, appealed to his faithful – who include garment workers and teachers – to join the mass demonstrations, while Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, called for factories to be closed next week.
Spokesmen from the National Police and the Ministry of Interior could not be reached.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR