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Sochua hits road after park ouster

Sochua hits road after park ouster

Opposition lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua protested for her “right to freedom” for the third day running at Freedom Park yesterday and was once again forcibly ejected from the area by security forces.

But the now-familiar encounter departed from the script when she left the area and went on a walk across the city, running into various authorities along the way.

Sochua arrived at the park near Wat Phnom at about 8:20am yesterday and was met by supporters of her solo campaign to express her rights in an area that she said should stand for “freedom of expression”.

“I didn’t see the [security forces] drilling, so I rushed into the middle of the park and was surrounded by the same security forces as before. I sat down and was physically lifted up,” she said.

Sochua, who was also removed from the park on Tuesday and Wednesday, said she managed to hold her ground for about 45 minutes before once again being moved on. Video of the scene was posted to her Facebook page later in the day.

After leaving, Sochua began a chaotic walk to the Cambodia National Rescue Party headquarters.

Outside the Ministry of Education, she said she was met by about 10 armed police officers. “They tried to make me take a detour. I told them I have a right to walk.”

She was later stopped in front of Minister of Interior Sar Kheng’s house by security forces, while military police outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home let her pass.

Sochua said she was also met by police and security forces when she stopped at Independence Monument to “thank the King for giving us independence”.

It was about 11:45am when she eventually made it to her party’s headquarters.

City Hall banned public gatherings in Phnom Penh following violent clashes in early January and the clearing of a protest camp in Freedom Park. The ban was subsequently lifted across the city with the exception of the park, which remains off-limits to protesters.

Long Dimanche, spokesman for Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, said Sochua had once again provoked the security forces into action.

“[She] attempted to provoke the people to protest in Freedom Park, which we have banned until the investigation committee releases the official result of its investigation [into January protests],” he said.

“She tried to test the capacity and ability of our security guards who stand for banning anyone who wants to protest or [exercise] their freedom of expression there.”

Sochua said she would return to the park today but that it will be the last time until after Khmer New Year.

“When I return, I will do exactly the same thing every day.”

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