Thousands of police and military police were deployed yesterday in and around the capital to prevent demonstrations when the opening session of the National Assembly convenes today – minus the opposition.
Though blockades would not be set up unless needed, checkpoints have been erected on every national road leading into the capital, military police spokesman Kheng Tito said.
“We will not blockade, but we will take action to search vehicles, maintain public order and prevent traffic in order to provide security,” he said.
On the outskirts of Phnom Penh, military police and police stopped vehicles yesterday, checking for suspicious cargo.
Tito said that police were looking for explosives but would also be turning around groups of people entering the city in order to hold a demonstration against today’s scheduled session.
“It is a security precaution,” he said. “The ministry has issued the order … to allow the parliament to hold its meeting smoothly.”
Outside the National Assembly, authorities moved fire trucks to surrounding roads and parked razor wire across the street. At least a dozen military police could be seen securing the area yesterday afternoon.
The opening session of parliament is schedule to be presided over by the King today, despite a planned opposition boycott. Calls for a postponement of the opening session have failed, but with the ruling party insisting they will go ahead today regardless, fears of protests are mounting.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the security build-up was necessary to stay any potential outbreaks of violence.
“This is administrative work that we have to do regularly to search for explosives along the city entrance, and it also maintains safety and makes it easy for the opening session,” he said.
But monitors said there was little doubt authorities intended to stifle freedom of expression.
“This is serious intimidation and a threat intended to make people feel frightened,” political analyst Kem Ley said.
In a message issued on Saturday Prime Minister Hun Sen urged greater stability.
“In the future, it is necessary that we continue to promote the culture of non-violence, restraint and tolerance … within our society,” he wrote.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA