Cambodian opposition to march on Rights Day despite government’s ban

Cambodia’s opposition party will march in the capital and the tourist city of Siem Reap on the International Human Rights Day despite a ban from the government, party leaders said Monday.

“We will still march on streets peacefully on Tuesday because we have already informed the authorities,” Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), told reporters upon his return from the United States. “The authorities have only obligation to ensure safety for protestors.”

His remarks came after the Ministry of Interior on Sunday issued a statement, banning the opposition party and civil society organizations from marching on the day.

“The Ministry of Interior allows the CNRP to gather at the Freedom Park in the morning on Tuesday, with the participants below 10,000 — the maximum capacity of the Park,” said the statement signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng. “Marching is banned, but the party can assign 10 representatives to deliver their petition to the National Assembly.”

CNRP’s President Sam Rainsy said it was the people’s rights and freedom, so the authorities should not prevent them from marching.

Rainsy said he will join the rally in the capital in the morning and fly to Siem Reap in the afternoon.

“These protests will be conducted peacefully, so we urge both participants and authorities to avoid violence at any cost,” he told reporters.

The CNRP announced last Thursday it will stage mass rallies in both capital Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on Dec. 10 to demand greater respect for human rights and greater access to social justice, according to CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith.

He said the party planned to gather 20,000 people in Phnom Penh and at least 10,000 participants in Siem Reap city.

The CNRP has launched several mass rallies in Phnom Penh after July’s disputed election. One of the events in September turned violent as protestors hurled stones at police and the police retaliated with tear gas and water cannons. As a result, a protestor was shot dead and several got wounded.

Yem Ponharith said from Dec. 15 onwards, the party will hold mass protests in Phnom Penh every Sunday to demand probe into the allegations of serious fraud and irregularities during the July election that handed victory to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party.

He said the party would continue boycotting parliament unless investigation was launched into the poll irregularities.