A NEW force has emerged in the current political stalemate - one that has been
at the forefront of every 20th century revolution - students.
At 8:30 on Wednesday morning, some 2,000 students gathered before the Royal Palace
to protest the official announcement of election results. They claimed to come from
Phnom Penh University, Royal University of Agriculture, the Institute of Technology
and various faculties including law and medicine.
The students had no microphone and people in the rear of the crowd complained that
they could not hear, but clapped and cheered in imitation of those who could.
"We're coming from every university and high school," one student said.
"This is an unlimited demonstration."
Not only students but market women and moto drivers attended the protest meeting.
As a group of 50 monks arrived at the site, the students cheered. By 9am, the crowd
was blocking traffic in front of the palace. A tour bus had to back away and retreat.
"We are students," announced one leader. "We should do things correctly.
We have to move out of the street into the square to let traffic pass."
A group of market women laughed. "He just called us students. We have to move."
One student said of the CPP: "If they are 100% pure gold, why are they afraid
to vote again? If you're gold, why are you afraid of the fire?"
At 10:30, the students moved off to protest in front of the EU headquarters on Street
31. By now they had acquired a bullhorn and a loudspeaker as well as new banners:
"Khmer students need democracy."
"We do not accept the result of the July 26 elections."
"The dictator has to step down. We no longer need you."
SRP spokesman Rich Garella arrived at EU headquarters by motorcycle. He said that
the Movement of Students for Democracy was news to him, though he'd heard of it a
few days before.
One student who claimed to be the representative of the students at the Faculty of
Law, spoke on condition of anonymity:
"We are here to support democracy and we refuse to accept the results announced
by the NEC yesterday. We believe the election was a fraud. We knew the election was
a fraud since election day, but we waited until the official result. That's why we
held the demonstration this morning.
"Three or four students were bought by some parties to write a petition supporting
the claim that the election was free and fair. But today all the students are denouncing
the petition. The students don't want any politician to get involved in their demonstration.
We've received 11,000 thumbprints by students in support of our protest."
A Buddhist monk claimed that there was intimidation in the countryside to vote for
"Buddhist monks must refrain from holding demonstrations for any political party,"
he observed. "This is the rule of Buddhism, but by law Buddhist monks have the
right to participate in demonstrations for democracy. I hope that this demonstration
will be successful and that Hun Sen will step down. If he will not, I will collect
more and more people to hold demonstrations."
By 2:00 in the afternoon, two loudspeakers were rigged to a pickup truck.
"We are not beggars," announced one student leader. "We are students.
We want democracy and we are not serving the interests of any party."
"We request TVK to broadcast our demonstration today," said a second leader.
"And do not say that we belong to any party. If TVK does not air our protest,
we will hold demonstrations in front of the TV station tomorrow."
Claimed a third student leader: "We will hold demonstrations as big as the students
did in Indonesia."
From 11am, torturous negotiations went on with EU officials within the compound.
The students wanted to send in five representatives. The EU said three, then backed
down. The students wanted local and international journalists present. The EU balked.
The students received a fax from EU headquarters in Bangkok saying that the students
were in front of the wrong building. They should go to EU Electoral Headquarters
on Street 51.
Fearing a trick, the students left half their number at Street 31 and proceeded to
Street 51. Here they were told the building was too small to accommodate journalists.
By the time the EU officials backed down, at 4pm, the students said it was too late
and, besides, the international journalists had left.