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Opposition preps plans for demos

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sohka speak at a press conference at their party offices in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy \and his deputy Kem Sohka speak at a press conference at their party offices in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Opposition preps plans for demos

The Cambodia National Rescue Party is not done marching.

Speaking at party headquarters yesterday afternoon, CNRP leaders said they plan to establish “democracy squares” in provincial towns and cities to regain momentum lost following last week’s deadly attack on striking workers and the violent destruction of a symbolic protest camp in the capital.

Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha and other party leaders will travel to Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and other provinces from Friday to garner support, party officials said.

“We are focusing on the mobilisation of our political forces. The president and vice president will visit Siem Reap, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey from [January] 10 to 12,” CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.

“In the near future, we will make an announcement to Phnom Penh Municipality and the Ministry of Interior to hold marches. First, we will rally support in the provinces.”

A deadly crackdown on striking workers at the Canadia Industrial Park in the capital on Friday, which left four dead, was followed by the violent eviction and demolition of a camp at Freedom Park, where CNRP supporters had held continual protests since December 15.

Twenty-three people who were arrested during the crackdown, which began with the blocking of roads by striking workers on Thursday, have not been located after being detained by security forces and charged with intentional violence and criminal damage.

CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said a new mass demonstration would be called in Freedom Park by the end of the month.

“We have decided among the [CNRP] parliamentarians that we will go to the province.… Each province has a kind of democracy square. We will be using this kind of democracy square to gather the people who will be coming from surrounding villages,” she said following yesterday’s meeting.

“Once this is done, we will be coming back to [Freedom Park]. There’s no way it can be shut off forever. We know for sure that this is not the intention of the government. We will for sure continue meeting at [Freedom Park] as we did in the past, this month.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan did not rule out the possibility of fresh opposition marches in the capital despite a ban on public gatherings.

“They have a right to petition to the City Hall and cooperate with the Ministry of Interior. Demonstrations are guaranteed by law so long as they make a number of agreements [it is possible],” he said.

In a separate announcement yesterday, the CNRP said that human rights lawyer Richard Rogers would lead a team to investigate whether Hun Sen could be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the violence.

“We are fully aware that the ICC will only consider the most serious cases. For the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation she must be reasonably satisfied that the state authorities committed serious crimes against civilian population, on multiple occasions pursuant to a state policy. This is a high threshold,” Rogers, who is a defence lawyer for a suspect in the ECCC’s Case 004, wrote in email.

“But there is already credible evidence that the Cambodian authorities have actively promoted attacks against civilians,” he added.

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