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Opposition defies ban again

Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters drive motorbikes and tuk-tuks though Phnom Penh
Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters drive motorbikes and tuk-tuks though Phnom Penh during a campaign rally for council elections. Heng Chivoan

Opposition defies ban again

Hundreds of opposition supporters once again defied a ban on public assembly yesterday by rallying through the streets of Phnom Penh – and once again their event remained free from the type of government-inflicted violence seen last week.

A motorcade set off from the Cambodia National Rescue Party headquarters in the capital’s Meanchey district for the second day running at about 3:30pm yesterday, leading supporters around the city.

While the activity defied a newly reinforced ban on public assembly – which will remain in place for the duration of the council election campaign – and follows the violent suppression of CNRP supporters on Thursday and Friday, those joining the march said they were not afraid.

“They can hit the protesters, but we want a change in government, so we will keep coming back. There is too much corruption. We need to change that,” 45-year-old Hor Leksmey said. “We want justice, we want freedom.”

Another supporter, 28-year-old Oun Sitha, agreed.

“We want this to be a real election,” he said, referring to the disputed results of the national polls in July.

“We still want to change the current government but we will try to make a change now in the [local] elections,” he said.

As the motorcade drove through the city, dozens of supporters stopped what they were doing to their show support for the party.

Speaking to the crowd last night, CNRP deputy leader Kem Sokha said the success of the rally was proof the Cambodian people did not need the current government.

“I think that the show of congratulation by people who live along these roads is enough to tell the current leaders to be aware . . . that people do not need them anymore,” he said.

“Today . . . in our march through the Tuol Kork area, where the villas of CPP high-ranking officials are, [they] have opened their doors to congratulate [the CNRP].”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that while such rallies create “traffic blocks [and] damage public order”, as well as go against the ban on assembly, City Hall had been asked by the Interior Ministry not to intervene.

“The Ministry of Interior has instructed our authorities to compromise to avoid tension,” he said.

Speaking earlier in the day at a rally in Kratie, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy hit out at what he claimed was the government’s tolerance of “yuon” – a term for Vietnamese that can be considered derogatory – encroaching on Cambodian territory.

“Our country’s leaders . . . do not dare to fight against yuon, so there is only the Cambodia National Rescue Party that does not owe a favour to yuon or dare to fight against yuon to defend our territory.”

The CNRP’s next rally in Phnom Penh is set to take place on Wednesday.

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