Cambodia Opposition Party Holds First Rally Since Crackdown

2014-01-10
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Sam Rainsy meets with supporters in Siem Reap, Jan. 10, 2014.
RFA

Cambodia’s main opposition party on Friday held its first public rally since a violent government crackdown on protests last week, saying it would push ahead with demands for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resignation and calling his government “illegitimate.”

Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha met with some 1,000 supporters at the party’s provincial headquarters in Siem Reap, the country’s third-largest city.    

The rally was the CNRP’s first since nearly a week ago, when security forces violently dispersed party supporters from Freedom Park in the capital Phnom Penh where they had been holding daily protests calling on Hun Sen to quit and to hold new elections following disputed polls last year.

Also last week, police shot dead four people and wounded 40 others during a crackdown on a strike by garment workers that was backed by the CNRP in the outskirts of the city, drawing criticism from the United Nations and rights groups.

“This government is so brutal. The government killed its own people,” Sam Rainsy said at the rally.  

“This is an illegitimate government. We must have a re-election," he said.

The government has defended its crackdown and issued summonses to Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of inciting social unrest.

The two leaders reiterated their demands for an independent investigation into July 28 polls following allegations of fraud and other irregularities, failing which the government should call for fresh elections.

They said re-election is a key solution to the political deadlock that has dogged the kingdom for the last six months, during which the CNRP has boycotted parliament, claiming it was robbed of victory in the polls.

Kem Sokha said at the rally that the CNRP was the “true winner” of the July polls and that the party “adheres to democratic principles” and “respects the will of the people.”

Restarting demonstrations

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha are on a tour of Siem Reap, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey provinces until Sunday to drum up support for further rallies, vowing to restart mass demonstrations by the end of the month.

The Ministry of Interior meanwhile warned the party not to violate the law on peaceful demonstration.

“We [authorities] respect rights to protest, but the protest must comply with the law,” ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

CNRP protests in recent weeks have drawn tens of thousands to the streets and posed a major challenge to the government alongside strikes by garment and footwear workers demanding a higher minimum salary.

cambodia-teacher-strike-jan-2014-400.jpg
A teacher and his students display a banner calling for teacher salaries, Jan. 10, 2014. Photo credit: RFA.
As hundreds of shuttered factories reopened and garment workers returned to work this week, teachers in 20 schools across the country have gone on strike to demand their pay be raised to 1 million riel (U.S. $250) per month.

Hun Sen orders study of civil servant salaries

In response to their demands, Hun Sen on Friday ordered officials to look into a possible increase into salaries for teachers and other civil servants, according to a statement released after his cabinet’s weekly meeting.

He assigned Deputy Prime Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon “to discuss with relevant institutions and other stakeholders to study a possible increase in salary and equitable reform of the salary system for civil servants,” the statement said.   

Hun Sen also called for swift results from recently formed committees investigating the garment worker crackdown, assessing property damage from recent demonstrations, and studying a possible minimum wage increase for garment workers, it said.

The Ministry of Education has not responded to demands for higher salaries for teachers, who have been striking since Monday.

According to union leaders, some 700 teachers are taking part despite many of them facing threats from their school principals that they will be fired.

Ouk Chayavy, a striking teacher at a high school in Kandal province, said she refuses to be intimidated.

“I am not afraid of those threats. It is legal for me to demand that my salary be increased,” she told RFA.  

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (7)
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Anonymous Reader

GTFO already Hun Sen, your time is over.

Jan 12, 2014 11:28 AM

Lsowell

from Lowell

With all respect to the CNRP's leaders, it's time to stop taking advantage on innocent Khmer workers for political gain. Best way to show love and care for them and the nation is: Wait for the next election where you can probably easily win. There seems to be no good reason not to wait.

Jan 12, 2014 07:46 AM

Broken-Heart Khmer

A possibility of raising the civil servant salaries will remain a possibility and it will never ever come true under the rampant corrupt system led by Hun Sen and his family.

The possibility will become reality only if after Hun Sen is out. The difference can be seen only if there are two or more leadership models to compare, not such a one party system right now. Leadership change is a must.

Jan 11, 2014 04:15 PM

Anonymous Reader

It was a peaceful demonstration until the red banded team run down the protesters by force and destroyed properties of CNRP and their protesters at the Liberty Park.

Jan 11, 2014 02:14 PM

Anonymous Reader

“We [authorities] respect rights to protest but the protest must comply with the law,” ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

What this idiot is saying is, if authority say no you can't demonstrate, it means authority itself is the law. This means he is above the law, he's above the Constitution.

Jan 11, 2014 11:18 AM

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