Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forum leads to clashes

Forum leads to clashes

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua confronts military police who blocked the entrance to a political forum at a private house in Battambang town
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua confronts military police who blocked the entrance to a political forum at a private house in Battambang town. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Forum leads to clashes

Police officers, some of them armed with batons and shields, clashed with Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Mu Sochua and villagers yesterday as authorities cracked down on a public election forum at a private home in Battambang town.

Sochua said she and others were left with scratches on their arms after about 50 officers blocked villagers from accessing the forum, organised by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media’s Voice of Democracy program.

“Police were blocking them from coming,” she said. “They were threatening them, saying the event was not legal.

“More police came with shields and batons.… Police started pushing me away from villagers.”

The authorities, Sochua said, had “no grounds whatsoever” to say the conference – designed to answer villagers’ questions about the election – was illegal.

“It’s a huge violation of the rights of the people,” she continued. “It’s not democratic, it’s not helpful to the government and we condemn this type of behaviour.”

The incident took place in an area the opposition won in last month’s national election, Sochua said.

CNRP member Mounh Sarath said police had struck supporters with batons after blocking their path into the conference.

“We tried to negotiate, and eventually there was conflict between the people and the authorities, and police have hit them with sticks,” he said.

A video posted on Facebook shows a young woman screaming at a wall of riot police. After she penetrates their blockade – calling them “tyrants” – officers use their shields to force her back.

Sin Chan Pov Rozeth, 27,an SRP commune councillor, said police had closed off five streets in the area, while two people said they received minor injuries in the clashes.

Thuch Ra, Battambang town police chief, defended his officers’ conduct, saying they had simply tried to control “trouble makers”.

“They did not ask permission from the provincial level,” he said. “They asked for it from the commune – which said it did not have the capacity to allow it. So our force told people it was illegal and did not allow them to take part.”

But Chan Somaly, a CCIM communications officer, said the forum had been the same as ones her organisation had staged elsewhere before and since the election.

“This [response from police] is threatening people’s freedom of expression,” she said, adding CCIM had told authorities of the forum in advance.

Yin Mengly, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said there was nothing illegal about planning such an event.

“There’s no law saying legal permission must be requested and granted for an event like this,” he said. “This event was organised by an NGO, not a political party.… The Ministry of Interior says [they] must only inform the local authority five days before.”

Somaly, from CCIM, added that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the National Election Committee had also been invited to the forum but declined to attend.

MOST VIEWED

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • Prayut indicates no entry into Thailand for CNRP’s Rainsy

    Cambodian government officials on Wednesday welcomed the position of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he indicated that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to return to Cambodia through Thailand. “According to our commitment to Asean, we will not interfere in each other’s internal