Cambodian Opposition Chief Blasts Military Build-Up in Capital

cambodia-sr-return-aug2013.gif Sam Rainsy greets thousands of supporters upon his return from U.S. at the Phnom Penh International Airport, Aug. 16, 2013.

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy slammed the government for deploying troops, tanks and armored vehicles in the capital Phnom Penh, saying it was aimed at intimidating the people following his call for mass protests if widespread election irregularities were not investigated.

Speaking on his return home after a weeklong visit to the United States, he said the military build-up was a "threat" and called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to avoid any bloodshed in the wake of the disputed July 28 elections.

"There are tanks and armored vehicles [in Phnom Penh]. They should use that military equipment to protect our borders. They shouldn’t use it to intimidate the people in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Asked during a call-in show by RFA's Khmer Service whether he was concerned over a possible violent crackdown by the government amid rising post-election tensions, Sam Rainsy, who leads the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said he did not expect any such move by the authorities.

But in an obvious reference to Hun Sen, he urged the people, irrespective of political affiliations, to unite "to get rid of any individuals who cling to power."

“Dictators, even though they use all kinds of tricks, will finally lose," he said. "They must realize themselves and try to avoid any bloodshed in the country. Don’t cling on to power too long.”

Hun Sen, who has been in power for 28 years, had recently threatened that he would go ahead and set up a new government despite the dispute over the outcome of general elections.

The Cambodian strongman also warned of protests by his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to counter any mass opposition demonstrations.

Political deadlock

Amid a political deadlock that has gripped Cambodia since the CPP and CNRP each claimed victory in the elections and the deployment of extra troops and armored vehicles, some political observers have raised concerns that Hun Sen, known for his tough reputation, could use force against any protests.

Rights groups have accused Hun Sen's administration of involvement in a deadly 1997 grenade attack which killed 16 and injured more than 150, including Sam Rainsy.

Sam Rainsy said Friday that he did not expect a repeat of the 1997 crackdown.

“People are brave now," he said, noting that Cambodia's young voters have used the July 28 ballot to express their dissatisfaction over Hun Sen's administration.

Asked whether the CNRP would implement its threat to stage massive street protests if its demand for a probe on election irregularities was not met, he said it had to be ready to do so but "as a last resort."

Preliminary results by the National Election Committee (NEC), which organizes elections, support the CPP claim it had won 68 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, against 55 for Sam Rainsy's CNRP.

The opposition claims to have actually won at least 63 seats, even though the official number represents a substantial gain on the 29 seats it held in the last assembly. Analysts say the younger voters had mostly backed the CNRP in the latest polls.  

Fight for justice

Sam Rainsy renewed his objections to the NEC's preliminary election result announced on Aug. 12 and vowed to fight for justice for the voters.

He alleged that the CPP and NEC had colluded to deny about one million votes for the CNRP. The opposition party had earlier claimed that one million voters had been delisted from the polls.

NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha declined to comment on Sam Rainsy charges.

Governmenmt spokesman Phay Siphan said that election results came under the purview of the NEC and not political parties.

“His Excellency Sam Rainsy and [deputy CNRP chief] Kem Sokha never accepted the election result. This is their judgment,” he said.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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