Opposition officials in multiple provinces are reporting organised police efforts to get them to defect or sign contracts promising not to travel to Phnom Penh for tomorrow’s Supreme Court hearing over the possible dissolution of the CNRP.
The Ministry of Interior has ordered provincial authorities to remain on high alert, and declared that any protests at the Supreme Court will be blocked. Heightened numbers of police on standby are being reported in Kampot, Pursat, Koh Kong, Svay Rieng and Kampong Cham provinces.
Kin Lueng, Cambodia National Rescue Party executive chief in Prey Veng province, said police have increased the pressure on local opposition officials to defect to the ruling Cambodian People's Party - as urged by Prime Minister Hun Sen himself - by approaching them personally in recent days.
According to Lueng, one district counsellor was approached by a group of policemen who blocked him from leaving his building today.
In Battambang, CNRP executive chief Chea Chiv reported that an increased number of police and soldiers are patrolling the town looking for vehicles transporting people to Phnom Penh.
“We don’t have any plans to go to Phnom Penh, so none of our members thumb-printed [contracts] promising not to come to Phnom Penh” as other opposition members have been made to do, Chiv said. “But prominent activists and counsellors are being surveilled whether we go to Phnom Penh or not.”
National Police spokesman Kirt Channarith could not be reached today.
In Kampot province, where heightened numbers of police and checkpoints are being reported, Provincial Police Chief Mao Chanmaturith said security forces are being deployed merely to “educate” people to “make them understand whether going to do protest is legal or illegal”.
“On the streets, we just put checkpoints to check the traffic as normal,” Chanmaturith maintained.
Cambodia Center for Human Rights Advocacy Director Duch Piseth said the increased security may create confusion and intimidation among the public.
“The deployment of security forces is excessive,” Piseth said. “It doesn’t need to be at that level.”
Additional reporting by Daphne Chen
Updates to come.