AROUND 150 armed security forces were deployed by Phnom Penh Municipal authorities yesterday to prevent a ceremony “expressing hate and demanding that Thai soldiers withdraw” from Preah Vihear temple.
On July 15, 2008, Thailand sent troops to disputed border areas close to Preah Vihear temple after UNESCO accepted Cambodia’s application to have it listed as a World Heritage site.
The ceremony, organised by the Cambodian Watchdog Council, was to take place outside the old National Assembly building near Wat Botum and mark the anniversary of the “Thai invasion” by demanding the withdrawal of Thai troops still stationed near the temple.
However, 150 soldiers and police – outnumbering the protesters – forced the gathering to disburse and relocate.
CWC President Rong Chhun expressed disappointment that authorities prevented the ceremony from going ahead as planned.
“The supporters and I wanted to hold a ceremony to remember the anniversary of the Thai invasion, but we are disappointed that local authorities prevented the gathering,” he said. “The deployment of armed forces is threatening and frightening to the patriotism of Cambodia’s children.”
He said the ceremony was moved to his office in Chamkarmon district, but remained under heavy police guard.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the ceremony was in “the nation’s interest”.
“Local authorities hindering the gathering is a violation of the right of expression,” he said. “This is not a democracy.”
Officials at City Hall could not be reached for comment yesterday.