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CNRP appeals for protest protection go unheeded

CNRP lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun is helped onto a bed late last year after he was set upon by a group of protesters at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.
CNRP lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun is helped onto a bed late last year after he was set upon by a group of protesters at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

CNRP appeals for protest protection go unheeded

Government officials yesterday remained noncommittal as to whether they would provide extra security to the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which reiterated requests over the weekend for protection from pro-ruling party protesters should they demonstrate against the opposition in response to a planned anti-Hun Sen rally in the US today.

In a letter dated February 12, addressed to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, the opposition asks for support from Cambodia’s security forces given the recent threats made by pro-government supporters of protests against CNRP leaders should planned anti-government rallies greet Prime Minister Hun Sen at the start of a two-day US-ASEAN summit in Sunnylands, California, today.

“If there is no action from the competent authorities, the CNRP leaders and members may be exposed to physical abuse, anywhere, if the [threats of] demonstrations come true,” the letter signed by CNRP acting president Kem Sokha reads.

The opposition is seeking to avoid a reprisal of violence in October, when two CNRP lawmakers were savagely beaten by pro-government demonstrators outside of the National Assembly. The protesters were demonstrating in response to anti-Hun Sen rallies held abroad.

The premier had warned the night before the attack that pro-government protests were imminent, and last month he again forewarned that more demonstrations were likely should there be anti-CPP protests in the US when he meets with US President Barack Obama and other ASEAN leaders today.

Contacted yesterday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Por Pheak, confirmed the letter had been received and passed on to Sar Kheng, but as yet a decision had not been made as to what action would be taken.

“What I can say about the CNRP request, or any other [request], especially on security, is it is the responsibility of Ministry of Interior to ensure everybody gets the same protection,” he said.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said he had not yet received any instructions from the Interior Ministry, nor had he received a request from any group to protest in the capital.

Kirth Chantharith, a spokesman for the National Police, confirmed yesterday that he was aware of the request but no security personnel had yet been assigned to the case, “because today, I’m very busy”.

According to the website of US-based activist group the Cambodian-American Alliance, the “rally against the tyrant Hun Sen” is set to take place in Sunnylands today from 11.30am, California time. The protest organisers have said they expect up to 1,000 supporters.

Fearing reprisals in Phnom Penh, the CNRP has publicly distanced itself from protesters in the US.

A pro-CPP youth group called the Will of Overseas Youth last week vowed to rally at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh should protests, which they insist are linked to the opposition, proceed in California.
Group leader Saing Sung said yesterday “The plans remain unchanged.”

According to Sung, the protest would be peaceful and would not include a demonstration at Kem Sokha’s home, as had occurred in October when protesters hurled rocks at CNRP deputy president’s house.

A time for the rally has not been set as the group will be monitoring the protest in the US before it makes a decision on when to go to the CNRP headquarters, he added.

Referring to the October beating of the two lawmakers, visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Phnom Penh last month that “democratic governments have a responsibility to ensure that all elected representatives are free [to carry out] their responsibilities without fear of attack or arrest”.

Both the US Embassy in Cambodia and the US State Department have since weighed in expressing concern over government intimidation of opposition members.

The CNRP could not be reached for comment on the issue yesterday.

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