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Hunger strike off after eviction

CNRP supporter Prince Sisowath Thomico lights incense during a hunger strike at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh
CNRP supporter Prince Sisowath Thomico lights incense during a hunger strike at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh on Friday. HENG CHIVOAN

Hunger strike off after eviction

Cambodian National Rescue Party member Prince Sisowath Thomico on Saturday called off a planned hunger strike in support of an independent investigation into election irregularities after being expelled from his chosen venue, Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom, by military police.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said yesterday that authorities had forced Thomico to end the public strike over fears that demonstrations may have turned violent ahead of today’s scheduled convening of the National Assembly – an event that the opposition has vowed to boycott unless there is a credible investigation into election irregularities.

Thomico, a cousin of King Norodom Sihamoni, had announced the hunger strike on Friday at Wat Phnom, telling reporters at the time that he would fast “until there is a way to find justice for voters”.

Yesterday, Thomico said that he had called off the strike on Saturday, saying that the gesture was pointless if it could not be made in public.

“I stopped it since yesterday because there was no point in me going on a hunger strike while playing a hide-and-catch game with the authorities,” he said. “A hunger strike, as you know, is [about] staring in the face. It is a public message.”

Thomico added that he was currently looking into other tactics of protest and locations where he might be able to stage them without the interference of the authorities, but said that his next move “will depend on the ongoing negotiations between the CNRP and the CPP”.

“If the negotiation between the CNRP and the CPP takes into consideration the main concerns of the Cambodian people – justice and investigation into the fraud and the irregularities in the election – then there is no point in me taking any action,” he said.

“But if they don’t take this into account then I may have to take further action, and it may take the form of a hunger strike.”

The prince ran as an opposition parliamentary candidate for Preah Sihanouk province but did not capture the province’s single seat.

In a statement issued yesterday, Amnesty International condemned the expulsion.

“This was a peaceful assembly – it is very difficult to understand why the authorities are resorting to such a show of force, particularly at this fragile, unpredictable time,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific director.

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