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CNRP eyes March for ‘final’ push

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks to supporters in Battambang
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks to supporters in Battambang yesterday. Heng Chivoan

CNRP eyes March for ‘final’ push

A “final campaign” to force Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down or accept the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s demand for a re-election is being targetted for March, an opposition party official said yesterday.

During rallies in Banteay Meanchey and Battambang over the weekend, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha spoke of a new strategy aimed at forcing Hun Sen out of office.

Party spokeswoman and lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua yesterday said that the plan’s details would depend on what happened after Sokha and CNRP president Sam Rainsy’s questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday over allegations they incited violence leading to at least four deaths on January 9.

“We will continue to use non-violent means. We have a Plan A, B and C, but it is not just about what the [ruling party] does, it’s also about the response of the international community,” she said.

If all goes according to plan, the campaign would begin in March, she said.

“One of the possibilities is an economic boycott of companies close to the [ruling Cambodian People’s Party],” Sochua added.

At yesterday’s “people’s congress” in Battambang, hundreds of military police wielding AK-47s were deployed throughout the city.

“It was a shock. It’s really a show of fear, not strength . . . Around the market area, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha stopped to talk to the people and [armed security forces] were there to intimidate,” Sochua said.

Por Vannak, commander of the military police in Battambang province, said that the security forces had not stopped CNRP supporters from attending the rally.

“They [the CNRP] just made such a claim, but people were free to attend the event. We did not stop them or block roads,” he said, adding that armed military police had been deployed to prevent public disorder and to manage the flow of traffic.

Rainsy and Sokha yesterday called on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators and to join the opposition movement.

“Civil servants and workers and people are aware of what’s right and what’s wrong, and they support the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Only the armed forces are not [aware],” Rainsy said at yesterday’s rally. “I would like [the armed forces] to turn to support [the CNRP], not to shoot people, for the sake of their relatives.”

Rainsy claimed that foreign governments were increasingly lending their support to the CNRP, reiterating an earlier call for China to mediate between the two sides.

“All parties consider China as a friend of the Khmer people. So China can have a role to play in a compromise to find a solution to the current political crisis in Cambodia,” he said.

Foreign powers should consider their responsibilities more carefully ahead of the planned “final campaign”, Sochua said.

“What is the international community willing to do to fulfil their responsibilities? Some of these countries have trained the security forces. Are they training them to do this?” she asked.

Sokha also had a warning for members of the security forces who may use force against demonstrators in the future – you may yet have your day in court.

“I would like to implore [members of the security forces] who are competent not to join absolutists who shoot the Khmer, who are the same [people] as them. Please stay neutral,” he said.

A team of lawyers tasked with investigating whether a suit could be filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the recent violence would begin to collect evidence in April, he added.

But senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap yesterday said the proposal to file a suit with the ICC would make no headway.

“The appeal [to the ICC] is normal, because soldiers serve the whole nation as well as the royal government,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA

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