Cambodia's Opposition Launches Daily Protests to Force New Polls

Sam Rainsy speaking to the 10,000-strong crowd at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, Dec. 15, 2013.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) launched a campaign of daily demonstrations beginning Sunday in a bid to force Prime Minister Hun Sen's government to call for a re-election following disputed July polls.

CNRP President Sam Rainsy and other leaders declared at a rally attended by about 10,000 supporters that they will continue to hold protests every day for three months throughout the country demanding new elections after the July 28 polls were marred by claims of fraud and other irregularities.

The party's deputy president, Kem Sokha, warned that there will be a mass movement to topple the government if Hun Sen, who has held power for 28 years, does not call for a re-election.

"People from all walks of life and from all over the country are asking for Hun Sen's resignation and new elections," Sam Rainsy told cheering supporters in the capital Phnom Penh's Freedom Park.

The crowd, many of them wearing headbands reading "Long Live Democracy" and "My Vote, My Life," then marched along the capital's key streets shouting slogans backing their call for new elections.

The CNRP decided to push for a new election after the government ignored its protests so far calling for an independent probe into voting irregularities in the July 28 elections.

'Nonviolent' move

Sam Rainsy (R) raising his hand and Kem Sokha (L) with garland at the rally, Dec. 15, 2013.
Sam Rainsy (R) raising his hand and Kem Sokha (L) with garland at the rally, Dec. 15, 2013.

The CNRP's demonstrations will be held "every day nonstop," Sam Rainsy said, calling it a nonviolent attempt to bring about change based on democratic principles.

Hundreds of CNRP supporters spent the night at Freedom Park, vowing to continue their protest.   

The opposition, which put up one of its best election performances in the July vote, has boycotted parliament, saying it was robbed of victory due to fraud and other irregularities, including the removal of one million voters from the July poll register.

The government-appointed National Election Committee, which conducted the polls, declared the CPP the election winner, awarding the ruling party 68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55, but the CNRP claims it won at least 63 seats.

Call dismissed

A government spokesman on Sunday dismissed the opposition's call for a new poll, saying it had failed to prove any voting irregularities.

"Thus CNRP is in no position to call for a new election. It just shows that CNRP is just a sore loser," Khieu Kanharith, who also represents the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), told Agence France-Presse.

The CPP had asked the CNRP last week to cancel its planned mass demonstrations, saying the two parties should resume negotiations to end a four-month political deadlock.

But talks between the two parties have stalled after the latest meeting last month.

The CNRP has insisted the talks must have on the agenda discussions about an investigation into poll fraud, resignation of election officials, and implementation of recommendations from U.N. experts and NGOs on electoral and other reforms.

The CNRP has also delivered petitions to the missions of the U.N. and foreign embassies in Cambodia, demanding international intervention in the election crisis.

Reported by Vann Vicha for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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