Phnom Penh’s municipal government wants to shut down the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) plans to join the Black Monday Campaign, RFA’s Khmer Service has learned.
Earlier this month the CNRP endorsed the campaign named after the black shirts demonstrators wear on Mondays in an attempt to win the release of jailed political activists and rights workers.
The Black Monday Campaign was launched by civil society groups after authorities arrested four officers of the human rights group ADHOC and an election official, charging them with bribery over their alleged role in a sex scandal involving CNRP leader Kem Sokha.
While the CNRP was already sympathetic to the Black Monday campaign, it waited three months before officially endorsing the protest movement.
The CNRP’s endorsement was viewed by city hall as an attempt to cause social unrest, according to a letter the city government sent to party leaders on Friday.
Cease or face consequences
In the letter, the city government warned the CNRP to immediately cease their plans or face consequences.
City officials called the CNRP’s plan to join the campaign an act of incitement and provocation and an attempt to mobilize people to commit “illegal acts” that could cause social unrest.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has attempted to suppress the Black Monday protests, labeling the campaign an illegal attempt at launching a “color revolution”
Over the years, Hun Sen has repeatedly inveighed against “color revolutions,” named after a series of popular movements that used passive resistance to topple governments in countries under the former Soviet Union during the 2000s.
The CNRP may now be endorsing the campaign, but is still keeping a low profile on Mondays as party leaders say they have no plans to join the protests in the streets.
“The campaign takes place in our headquarters, where people who would like to voice their concerns or advocate for the prisoners’ release may wear any colored shirt of their own choosing,” he told RFA.
“That does not affect the public order. The authorities shouldn’t be too concerned about it.”
Phnom Penh Court wraps Kem Sokha case
The city government’s warning comes as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced on Friday that its investigation into a case against Kem Sokha has been closed, and that it is charging the acting CNRP president for ignoring repeated court summons.
Phnom Penh Municipal Investigating Judge Than Leng notified Kem Sokha on Aug. 9 that the investigation was closed and Deputy Prosecutor Ly Sophanna said the case would now be forwarded to a prosecutor to issue a final submission to the court, after which the investigating judge will issue a final order.
The government has ordered Kem Sokha to appear before the court in connection with at least two complaints that have been filed related to an affair he is alleged to have had with a young hairdresser named Khom Chandaraty.
CNRP President Sam Rainsy has meanwhile been staying in France or traveling since an arrest warrant was issued for him in November over a 2008 defamation case and he was removed from his office and stripped of his parliamentary immunity. After Sam Rainsy left the country, the CNRP named Kem Sokha its acting president.
The conflict with Kem Sokha is just one of several legal cases the government or the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has brought against opposition party members.
Human rights workers say the scandal is being used by the ruling party to crack down on its political opponents and silence critics ahead of the local and national elections slated for 2017 and 2018.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.