Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned the opposition that legal action will be taken if they press ahead with their plan to hold a public gathering in the capital’s Freedom Park on Sunday.
The speech was followed by a meeting between Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders and Phnom Penh city officials, who rejected the opposition’s plan for a “people’s congress” and said security forces would intervene if it is attempted.
Speaking during the opening of the Stung Atai hydropower plant in Pursat province yesterday, Hun Sen said he would not tolerate the opposition party working “outside the law”.
“We are still being tolerant.… The law has limitations. It does not mean that [you] can go outside the law,” he said. “The country has a constitution. Our country has laws.… If people deviate from the laws into violence, there will be no tolerance. The law must take action.”
Hun Sen’s comments were dismissed by CNRP vice-president Kem Sokha yesterday as a “strategy of buying, division and intimidation”.
Phnom Penh municipality yesterday, after meeting with opposition leaders, announced it had rejected a CNRP request to hold a “people’s congress” in Freedom Park on Sunday.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche yesterday said the request for a gathering had been rejected because of an ongoing investigation into violence on Veng Sreng Boulevard and in Freedom Park on January 2 and 3.
On January 2, military police killed at least four striking workers in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district. The following day, private security and men thought to be ruling Cambodian People’s Party supporters violently evicted CNRP supporters from Freedom Park.
“We will not allow [the CNRP] to have a gathering in Freedom Park as long as the result of the investigation has not been issued,” Dimanche said.
“[The court] is investigating to find out who shoulders responsibility,” he added. “We will seek answers until we find out who affected the people’s right to enjoy freedom.… We will take measures to block [protesters].”
No timeline for the investigation has yet been established, and the CNRP has publicly questioned whether it is even taking place.
Sokha said the CNRP would reconsider its strategy for the meeting on Sunday following the rejection of the request, without going into the details.
“We were going to [hold the congress], we still will, but we will re-discuss how will we do it,” he said.
“International law must open freedoms for citizens, not bans. [Hun Sen] bans [citizens] from doing [demonstrations] and at the same time he tells citizens to respect the law.”
Ou Virak, former president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the city’s ban violated the constitution and the demonstration law.
“Why did [city hall] ban this? There is not any reason to institute a ban,” he said.