Opposition leader Sam Rainsy last night railed against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “fascist methods” and said attacks carried out against Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers outside the National Assembly were “clearly reprisals from the ruling party” in response to protests the premier has encountered during his state visit to France.
In a statement posted to his official Facebook page, Rainsy said Hun Sen had warned of attacks against the CNRP prior to departing for the trip, amid widespread reports Cambodian expatriates living in France planned to picket his appearance in the country.
“Knowing Hun Sen’s scare tactics, more acts of political violence are to be expected in the coming days,” Rainsy warned.
Reflecting on the difference between the protests in France and the violence seen in Phnom Penh yesterday, Rainsy broke from the conciliatory tone that has characterized his public declarations over the past year, as he has sought to maintain the so-called “culture of dialogue” between the two parties.
“While protests by Cambodians in France are always peaceful and respectful of the law and democratic principles, demonstrations of force by Hun Sen's partisans in Cambodia are often stained with violence and are obviously aimed at terrorizing the population, in the same way as threats of civil war -- if the opposition comes to power -- that Hun Sen has been continuously making over the last few months,” he wrote.
“Hun Sen can only resort to fascist methods in order to cling on to power.”
Yesterday morning, CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were savagely beaten by men who had joined up to 2,000 other people outside the National Assembly to demand the resignation of CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha from his position as deputy president of the assembly.
In the attacks, both men sustained injuries to their faces, with Chamroeun left with a double arm fracture, broken nose, chipped front teeth and facial swelling so severe his right eye had closed over.
While most of the protesters had dispersed prior to the attacks, dozens of men remained behind and waited for lawmakers to leave following the close of the Assembly’s morning session.
At the time the two lawmakers’ cars were set upon, no police were available to intervene, with Tonle Bassac commune police chief Sok Sam Uot yesterday saying they had gone to lunch.
Police similarly failed to respond to a six-hour assault on Sokha’s house in Phnom Penh, during which protesters broke windows and caused damage to the property by throwing rocks.
Those attacks followed demonstrations in Paris over the weekend involving hundreds of Cambodian expatriates, who came together to protest Hun Sen’s authoritarian grip on power and ongoing political repression that has seen opposition activists and politicians imprisoned over recent months.
Reacting to those protests, on Sunday evening Hun Sen warned of a demonstration against Sokha outside the National Assembly during a speech on Sunday evening.
“When tomorrow they play in Phnom Penh, do not be angry with them; and that play may see you lose your position in the National Assembly,” he said, referring to Sokha.
Senior figures in the Cambodian People’s Party yesterday claimed neither Hun Sen nor the party bore responsibility for the protest or the brutal assaults.