Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - We can protest, too: PM

We can protest, too: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses a crowd gathered at the inauguration of Cambodia’s first coal-fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses a crowd gathered at the inauguration of Cambodia’s first coal-fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday. Heng Chivoan

We can protest, too: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned that any future demonstrations by the opposition party would be matched with pro-government protests by ruling party supporters who have “equal rights” to do so, suggesting the current ban on public assembly may soon be lifted.

A government spokesman later said a lifting of the ban – imposed in the wake of a violent crackdown on protesting garment workers last month – was the “will” of the premier, though it would be up to relevant authorities to decide whether that happens.

“Now there will be two demonstrations. [Our] supporters have the right to do so and so do the opposition.… If they gather, so do we,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a coal power plant in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday morning.

The premier added he had “heard [the CNRP] will apply soon [for permission] to hold a demonstration”.

“If you apply for a demonstration, we will follow suit. If [you are] allowed, both will be [allowed]. If you are not [allowed], both won’t be. We don’t want to allow only one side to do it like in the past [before] we banned them,” he said.

“For myself, I am not calling for [demonstrations], but I just give equal rights.”

To illustrate his point, Hun Sen said that authorities might have to erect a wall in the middle of Freedom Park – the capital’s designated protest space, which was violently cleared of opposition demonstrators on January 4 – so each party could protest simultaneously.

“So we have to be prepared, whether it is a brick wall or a barbed-wire [fence],” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said it would be up to the authorities administering the ban whether to lift it in response to the premier’s words.

“He raised that issue so that the Ministry of Interior and City Hall might change that policy.’

Hun Sen’s comments come less than a week after Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy said his party would call off ongoing negotiations with the CPP if it continued to deploy security forces and its supporters to the vicinity of CNRP public gatherings – as happened on a few occasions in the past month.

On January 20, Hun Sen called on his supporters to be prepared “to fight” back against the opposition’s anti-government protests.

The first meeting of a bipartisan committee that was formed last week and is tasked with researching electoral reforms is set for tomorrow.

Senior opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday that he was not aware of any requests from his party to hold demonstrations, as alleged by Hun Sen.

“The lifting of the ban on demonstrations would be a good way to create a better environment for talks between the two parties.… But I don’t think we are looking for any more demonstrations in the near future,” he said.

He added that only communist government leaders would directly call for counter-demonstrations against the political opposition.

“No democratic nations have the prime minister organising a demonstration … only the Soviet Union has done that.”

CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha added that, although political parties have equal rights to demonstrate peacefully, they should do so at different places and at different times.

“Previously, the CPP is always provoking [us]. When they know where we are gathering, they go there too. That is negative and intentional provocation,” he said.

Kem Ley, a political analyst, said that Hun Sen had no choice but to lift the ban given widespread condemnation from the international community.

“[But] if he allows the CNRP to organise further demonstrations, it means more people, maybe 500,000 or a million, will come. That’s why he wants to use the CPP people power to frustrate or confront the CNRP instead of using the armed forces.”

Both the Phnom Penh municipality and the Interior Ministry announced bans on public assembly after at least four people were killed during protests in early January.

The bans have been sporadically, but at times violently, enforced.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche could not be reached for comment yesterday, while Khieu Sopheak, spokesman at the Interior Ministry, said he could not comment in detail on the prime minister’s speech.

“We follow the premier’s orders, and we do not follow the opposition,” he said.


  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Governor: Covid subsides in capital

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the Covid-19 situation in the capital’s 14 districts has eased, with only two districts still recording a high number of infections. “Transmission cases in all districts are dropping, though they are relatively higher Meanchey and Por Sen Chey.

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided