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Interior Ministry gives park move green light

A man strolls along a path at the future site of Freedom Park in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district along National Road 5.
A man strolls along a path at the future site of Freedom Park in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district along National Road 5. Hong Menea

Interior Ministry gives park move green light

The Ministry of Interior has officially approved Phnom Penh City Hall’s controversial plans to move the city’s designated protest area, Freedom Park, from the city’s centre to a disused patch of land further out of town.

Municipal spokesman Met Measpheakdey said yesterday that the city had received the approval letter from the ministry last week.

“We are going to start meeting with the experts on what the new Freedom Park will be like ... like [whether] we are going to build toilets, put lights over there we will know after the meeting,” he said. “We want to get it done soon.”

Measpheakdey reiterated the city’s plans to construct privately operated underground parking at the current park site.

Freedom Park was the site of a mass opposition sit-in following the disputed 2013 elections until supporters were violently evicted by masked thugs in 2014. Critics of the proposed move have said it will effectively put protesters out of sight and out of mind, with some also suggesting that the remoteness of the new site could be aimed at keeping ugly crackdowns out of the public eye.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that the move had been prompted by complaints from nearby businesses, which include several large corporations, whom he said were “fed up with the demonstrations”.

“The old Freedom Park will be a public garden. We don’t think the new Freedom Park is too far away for the people.”

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