Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong yesterday ordered work to begin on a new “Freedom Park” on the capital’s outskirts, after inspecting the site on National Road 5, according to officials.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced last week that authorities would relocate the current Freedom Park – a public space in the city’s centre designated for demonstrations – to a more remote, less visible site.
However, City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said yesterday that the Interior Ministry had yet to formally approve the move, and that the governor, after an inspection yesterday, gave the municipal public works department the green light to start converting a 2-hectare plot next to a large Sokimex petrol station in Russey Keo district for use as a new park and protest site.
The work will include growing plants, adding parking facilities, building toilets and constructing a space for exercise, according to the governor’s remarks, which were reported in local media. The Interior Ministry’s Khieu Sopheak was unreachable yesterday.
Officials have said the move was prompted by complaints about protests at the current site, near Wat Phnom and the US Embassy, which has been heavily used by activists and the opposition CNRP. Observers, however, suggested the city was effectively putting dissenters out of sight and out of mind.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday again criticised the move. “We declare that when CNRP holds the government, Freedom Park will be back to the old location,” Sovann said.