The opposition announced over the weekend that it will move its mass Human Rights Day demonstration on December 10 from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to allow civil society groups easier access to City Hall permits for their own demonstrations in the capital.
The party has also announced plans to begin holding weekly demonstrations in Phnom Penh starting from mid-December.
Separately, a Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman said yesterday that party leader Sam Rainsy has left for Europe to shore up support for a political resolution in Cambodia.
Speaking in Kampong Cham’s Prey Chhor district on Saturday, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha told a crowd of thousands about his party’s change of plans.
“December 10 is International Human Rights Day, so in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, civil society groups have asked for permission to demonstrate,” he said.
The CNRP does not want to give ruling party authorities the ability to deny permission to civil society groups on the basis that two groups have requested permits, Sokha said.
“That’s why, if civil society [groups] want to hold it, we let them do it. And … will do ours in Siem Reap town.”
Opposition spokesman Yem Ponharith said yesterday that the CNRP’s change would allow supporters in the northwest to easily join the protest. “We plan for at least 5,000 people … in Siem Reap town,” he said.
Ponharith added that following the protest, the CNRP would hold mass demonstrations in Phnom Penh every Sunday from December 15.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, said that although consistent weekly demonstrations were not illegal, the cost of managing such protests – including security and post-protest cleaning costs – would be a burden on authorities.
But Ponharith responded that while the CNRP could bear some minor costs, the maintenance of public order is a government obligation.