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Official distances CNRP from protests after letter

Authorities detain an activist last week during a ‘Black Monday’ protest in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district.
Authorities detain an activist last week during a ‘Black Monday’ protest in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district. Hong Menea

Official distances CNRP from protests after letter

Less than a week after some of its senior lawmakers endorsed the “Black Monday” campaign and offered up party headquarters as a venue for events, a Cambodia Nation Rescue Party spokesman has distanced the opposition from the movement following the receipt of a threatening letter from City Hall.

Speaking on Saturday, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party had “no plans” to hold public expressions of support for the initiative and moved to reassure authorities, telling them “not to worry”.

He said comments by lawmakers, including fellow party spokesman Eng Chhay Eang and senior official Mu Sochua, who both explicitly backed the campaign last week, were their personal stances rather than the party’s position.

“Previously, the party has followed and respected the will of each staff member or leader which aims to express an idea,” Sovann said. “The idea is not a threat, but intended to solve the problem and offer justice to victims only.”

Donning black garb, “Black Monday” activists have been protesting weekly since the jailing of four human rights workers and an election official in May. The five, along with an opposition commune chief, have been charged for supposedly bribing a purported mistress of CNRP acting president Kem Sokha, who has also been charged in relation to the widely criticised case.

The government, meanwhile, has characterised the campaign as a “colour revolution” intended to sow instability.

In this vein, City Hall sent a warning letter to the CNRP on August 12, warning them they would “have to face the law” if they joined the “illegal” movement.

Speaking yesterday, Boeung Kak land activist Tep Vanny, one of the campaign’s core participants, said she felt let down upon hearing Sovann’s comments, saying the CNRP’s full backing would lend momentum to the movement, which is also pushing authorities to find whoever was behind the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.

“I am very disappointed,” Vanny said.

Speaking yesterday, CNRP lawmaker for Battambang Long Botta said about 15 opposition elected representatives still planned to show up at the party’s headquarters today dressed in black to lend their support.

“We have to maintain the pressure,” Botta said. “If people start to forget, it’s not good.”

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