(Vatican Radio) Tens of thousands of protesters in Cambodia have been staging daily protests over the past three weeks. But Sunday’s demonstration was the largest to date. Observers say it was among the largest gatherings at any political event in the country’s history.
The protesters marched peacefully through the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, for four hours, chanting and waving flags.
They consisted of two groups: anti-government protesters demanding new elections and garment factory workers seeking a wage increase.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won the general election in July, extending his 28-year rule. But opposition politicians accuse him of rigging the vote and protested by refusing to take their seats in Parliament. The government refused to follow up with an inquiry, sparking the call for new elections.
Peaceful demonstrations in Cambodia, where people feel comfortable to express themselves without fear, is a new sight in Cambodia, said the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, in a press release.
He also called for negotiations to resolve both the political deadlock and the wage issue.
While Cambodia is facing numerous calls to reform on all sides, Subedi said he is still hopeful that “the recent election can mark a turning point in the process of improving the protection of human rights in Cambodia.”