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‘Last resort’ protests get official date

‘Last resort’ protests get official date

The Cambodia National Rescue Party set a date for its long-promised mass demonstrations yesterday, telling supporters to rally to its cause on September 7, the day before the National Election Committee is slated to release the final results for last month’s national elections.

In a statement released yesterday, the opposition still called on the Cambodian People’s Party to return to bilateral talks to establish an independent investigative committee to sort out a host of alleged election irregularities, which the opposition maintains tipped the vote in favour of the ruling party.

“The establishment of the special committee is the main purpose of the CNRP, which it has insisted on time and time again in order to find a peaceful solution,” the statement reads. “If there is no solution in finding a way to form a special committee for resolving all these irregularities in relation to the election, the last resort is that the CNRP will hold a mass peaceful demonstration against the result of the election. It will be held on September 7.”

The statement urges the international community not to recognise the election’s result, or any government formed thereby.

Party spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday’s statement underlined the need for the CPP’s participation in any investigation, adding that an investigation could not be carried out by civil society alone.

“We cannot form the commission without the CPP, because both parties have to sit down and find the solution, a peaceful solution to the problem,” he said. “We will accept the outcome, the result of the investigation conducted by the special commission. Winning or losing is not important. What is important is finding justice for the people.”

To that end, CNRP president Sam Rainsy issued another statement yesterday saying he had sent a letter to CPP president Chea Sim, asking “for further meetings of the working groups of the CPP and the CNRP urgently, and that the members who join this meeting have the right to make decisions to form an independent committee to resolve the irregularities”.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who led the CPP delegation to one of the meetings, could not be reached for comment yesterday on the likelihood of future talks.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said he believed any demonstrations would be “peaceful, generally,” but did allow for the possibility of minor trouble.

“If you look at the many rallies during the campaign, it was really massive and it was really widespread, but it was peaceful,” he said, adding that, nonetheless, “there’s actually room for concern about small pockets of problems”.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior distributed a set of two DVDs yesterday to embassies and NGOs containing speeches made by Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, in which the pair exhort crowds to join in demonstrations if a resolution on irregularities is not reached. At least one embassy confirmed receiving the discs, though Virak said that their contents were “not that interesting”.

“Basically, one is labelled Sam Rainsy and another is labelled Kem Sokha, and all it does is collect speeches made by Sam Rainsy in one and speeches made by Kem Sokha on another made in various provinces,” he said. “It was basically downloaded from the Facebook pages of the two individuals, and it’s related to the two and their claim of victory and their call for mass demonstrations to protect their victory, and I think that what’s the Ministry of Interior is trying to show.”

However, ministry and government spokespeople could not be reached for comment on why the discs were sent out in the first place.

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