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Unions in push for park rally

As the razor-wire came down from Freedom Park on Wednesday, a group of unions quickly filed a request to be the first people to hold a demonstration inside the park since it was put into lockdown in early January.

The letter, obtained by the Post yesterday, calls on Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong to allow six unions to hold the rally on International Youth Day on Tuesday.

Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said that the demonstration would call for higher salaries, improved working conditions, a better quality of education and vocational training for the Kingdom’s youths.

“After Freedom Park, we plan to march to the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Education and the National Assembly,” he said. “We hope there will be no problem as there is no more tension with political issues.”

Heng Choeun, president of the Farmer Association for Peace and Development, said he expected about 600 young workers and students to join the gathering.

“I hope 100 per cent that we can use Freedom Park for the first time since it reopened as planned and that we will not have police or authorities stopping us like they have in the past,” he said.

The park has been off limits since the fatal violence and mass demonstrations of early January. Security forces broke up an opposition gathering at the park on January 4, violently ending consecutive days of demonstrating.

Officials had previously said its reopening was dependent on the closure of government investigations into the events, but as it opened on Wednesday, the results remained elusive.

Choeun said that if permission is not granted, the group would hold the demonstration in a separate location near Freedom Park.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche told the Post that officials will meet with the union representatives today to discuss their request.

But, he said, if the request is approved, the usual security apparatus will be out in force.

If people “express their freedom of speech or do something over there through the law, we will spread the armed forces or authorities to protect them and ease the traffic as we normally do”, he said.

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