In an annual report released yesterday, Phnom Penh’s municipal police once again touted their success in preventing demonstrations and strikes by political parties, civil society groups, and unions, whom they referred to as agitators working to topple the government.
Released at a meeting yesterday, the document, which also covered an array of crime statistics, stated that municipal police had upheld their duties to protect residents from terrorists and “enemies planning to topple the government”.
Officers had “prevented political instability, the break-up of the internal unity, reduced violence, prevented mass social disasters and maintained safety,” the report stated before describing the main agitators’ origins.
“The majority of [demonstrations and strikes] have been perpetuated by some politicians, civil society groups, federations and unions that oppose the government.
[They] stoke incitement and attract activists and protesters to call on the government, ministries, institutions, and relevant local authority to solve their demands.
We have paid attention to these strikes and demonstrations and resolved them through cooperation to protect security and safety and keep order.”
Responding yesterday, Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said its members had done “nothing wrong” by demonstrating in a democratic country.
“The Ministry of Interior should play a neutral role and not be the spokesman for the [ruling Cambodian People’s Party],” Sovann said.
“If workers had high enough salaries to support their living, they would not have to protest, and if people didn’t have their land taken away, they would not protest.
They have to understand how this social phenomena works. If we continue to accuse each other, the country will not have peace and social crisis will continue.”
Demonstrations and strikes fell by 35 per cent, from 2,634 in 2014 to 1,509 in 2015, according to Interior Ministry figures released earlier this year.
But curbs on democratic protests should not be celebrated, said Moeun Tola, of rights group Central.
“This is not a good result. In Cambodia at the moment, there are concerns about serious restrictions on freedom of expression, I don’t think that should be cheered,” Tola said.