Prohibited from staging an event at Freedom Park by authorities, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers yesterday criticised the government’s democratic record during a rally at its Phnom Penh headquarters to mark the Paris Peace Agreement’s 25th anniversary.
Speaking to more than a thousand people who spilled down National Road 2, lawmakers once again appealed to the international community to work to uphold the treaty’s provisions, which provide the framework for the Kingdom’s democracy.
“On behalf of the CNRP and myself, I would appeal to relevant stakeholders, especially all signatories of the Paris Peace Accords, to review and re-evaluate the implementation of the Paris Peace Agreement thoroughly, and continue to apply it,” said acting president Kem Sokha.
The acting president spoke of the split in rhetoric between the CNRP’s complaints of human rights and political freedom abuses and the claims of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party that there were, in fact, no problems. Still, the accords gave him hope that a resolution was possible, he said.
“In the past, we fought each other with war and weapons, but still we could sit and discuss ending the war and fighting,” Sokha said.“So what about now? We do not fight with weapons, we fight just over political ideology. Why can’t Khmer discuss and solve the problem? Therefore, I have hope.”
The 1991 agreement, signed by Cambodia and 18 other countries, aimed to end Cambodia’s protracted civil war by laying the path for free and fair elections.
But as the 2017 local and 2018 national ballots approach, the CNRP and its top leadership find themselves facing a bevy of lawsuits and a number of its lawmakers jailed, with critics accusing the ruling CPP of leaning on the court to target opponents.
In a statement yesterday, CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the cases against the opposition and recent episodes of violence and intimidation flew in the face of the 1991 agreement. “They show clearly that democratic policy and rule of law have yet to be implemented,” Sochua said.
During his speech, Sokha – who is hiding at party headquarters to avoid arrest as part of a widely criticised case centred on his alleged affair with a hairdresser – also questioned the CPP claims of providing Cambodia “stability”.
“If there is stability, why do they not permit demonstrations? If there is peace, why are they so afraid of people?” he asked.
As political tensions have risen in recent months, authorities have refused to allow the CNRP to hold demonstrations. The opposition had vowed to hold yesterday’s event at Freedom Park, which has been the site of past clashes between activists and security forces, but backed off after their request for permission was rejected.
Speaking yesterday, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party had decided their headquarters were more “appropriate and convenient”.
According to Fresh News, Prime Minister Hun Sen dismissed the CNRP’s claims about the Paris Peace Agreement during a gathering of security force officials on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island.