Phnom Penh’s police and judges must be prepared to once again crack down on dissent, Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong told law enforcement and justice officials in a speech yesterday.
“In a year’s time, the atmosphere will be heating up in Phnom Penh,” Socheatvong said, in reference to the coming commune elections.
Speaking at the municipal police’s annual meeting, the governor praised the authorities’ “successful” response to unrest following the 2013 national elections, whose contested results saw thousands take to the streets to protest. Crackdowns on protests later that year and in 2014 resulted in at least five people being shot dead by armed forces.
“We had to implement legal measures against people who caused political instability. This is the key lesson we need to remember,” Socheatvong said. “If we didn’t . . . we cannot be sure we would have stability today.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann was adamant last night that his party no longer organised demonstrations.
“We want to avoid violence, we want to avoid bloodshed. But other demonstrations occur almost every day in this country – by the workers, by the farmers, by those whose land was illegally grabbed. So don’t blame this on the opposition.
[The ruling party] should look at themselves and what they have done to the country.”.
Future Forum founder and analyst Ou Virak said yesterday’s speech was symptomatic of a government obsessed with dissent, rather than a response to any real threat to stability.
“Today, I don’t see any real movement for that. I don’t think it’s possible,” said Virak. “I think it’s paranoia.”