Sam Rainsy Warned of ‘Consequences’ If Protests Turn Violent

cambodia-cnrp-demo-aug-2013.jpg Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters rally in Phnom Penh's Freedom Park, Aug. 6, 2013.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration warned opposition leader Sam Rainsy Thursday that he will be held responsible if mass demonstrations he plans to lead over disputed election results turn violent and threaten public security.   

The warning came as the authorities boosted security in the capital Phnom Penh amid concerns of possible clashes following the hotly contested July 28 general elections, which both Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) claim they won.

Uneasy residents in the city are stockpiling food to prepare for any turmoil amid calls by Sam Rainsy for mass street protests if the National Election Committee (NEC), the body supervising the polls, announces official results without considering the CNRP’s plea for independent, U.N.-backed investigation into widespread voting irregularities.

Sar Kheng, Minister of the Interior and president of the newly created Permanent Security Command Committee for the Elections, said in a letter to Sam Rainsy Thursday that the opposition leader could be held liable for violence or property damage caused by CNRP-led protests.   

“During your visit to Phnom Penh and other provinces you have urged people to participate in mass demonstration against the election results,” Sar Kheng said in the letter.

“Concerning this issue, the Permanent Security Command Committee for the Elections would like to stress … that peaceful demonstration is the people’s right, as guaranteed by the Constitution, but demonstration leaders and demonstrators must respect the law on peaceful demonstrations.”

“If the demonstrations provoke violence, harm security, or cause the destruction of public or private property, the leaders of the demonstration and those who breached the law will be held responsible before the law for any consequences.”

Protests to be 'peaceful'

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said demonstrations led by the party would be peaceful and comply with the law.   

“The mass demonstrations will be held peacefully and we will not provoke any public disorder or [destruction of] public or private property,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service. “Those who breach the law will be held responsible before the law.”

The NEC, which is accused of being a tool of the CPP, is scheduled to announce the election results between Aug. 14 and Sept. 8.

Hun Sen, Southeast Asia's longest-serving prime minister, has said that his CPP will move to convene the National Assembly and establish the new government by the end of September even if CNRP's lawmakers refuse to accept the results.

Call for U.N. observers

The CNRP walked out on talks with the CPP and the NEC over the weekend after its demands to include the United Nations in a proposed panel to investigate election irregularities were rejected.

Sam Rainsy, who left for the U.S. on Tuesday to attend his daughter’s wedding, wrote to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Monday requesting that the agency send observers to investigate election irregularities.

In his letter, a copy of which was released Thursday, he asked the world body to play a role similar to the one it took in managing 1993 elections, when the U.N. organized the country’s first polls following decades of conflict.

Those elections were followed by Hun Sen ousting his co-prime minister, and polls since then have been followed by confrontations and violence.

Tense residents

Residents in the capital say they are stocking up on food because they fear disorder prompted by demonstrations could cause food and water shortages and electricity disruptions.

Phnom Penh resident Peh Long said he wanted to take his family back to the countryside for a while to avoid any crisis in the city.

“I am afraid. I am scared. I have bought rice, fish sauce, soy sauce to keep at home,” he told RFA, adding that his concern had been stoked by King Norodom Sihamoni's public message on Wednesday urging CNRP and CPP to hold dialogues in order to avert any violence.

Security has been bolstered amid the unease in the city.

An RFA reporter spotted six armored vehicles and two military trucks stationed in the grounds of a pagoda near Phnom Penh, while local residents told RFA they had seen two tanks heading on the roads into the city.

Approximately 100 members from each unit of the armed forces, military police, and national police have been deployed to the city, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said security forces had been mobilized nationwide in order to “ensure political stability and security until the official formation of the new government,” according to the paper.   

“Not to worry, this is an advance measure of the armed forces to prevent any bad situation that may happen during the caretaker government period," he said. "We have to ensure security and social stability until there will be a new government.”

Bomb blast

Early Wednesday morning, a bomb exploded outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, though the blast left no injuries.

Local authorities said the blast had not been intended to hurt anyone but rather was aimed at stoking fear in the post-election period.

Early this week hundreds of soldiers were deployed in Prey Veng province southeast east of Phnom Penh.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told residents they should not be concerned about the deployments, saying that as long the forces were not utilized, the situation in the capital was the same as usual.

“So far the government has no plan of using the military to crack down on people, and the national security situation is no worse if we are not using the troops,” he told reporters.

Disputed vote

The CPP claims it has secured 68 seats in the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, and the CNRP won 55 seats, while the CNRP maintains it won 63 seats and the CPP took 60. The NEC has effectively endorsed the CPP claims based on initial reports.

The CNRP says that ballot irregularities resulted in more than 1 million names removed from voter lists, with a similar number of "phantom" voters added to them, along with what it called the duplication of about 200,000 names.

The initial results showed that the CPP election performance was the worst in 13 years.

Hun Sen has been in power for 28 years and has vowed to stay in power for another decade.

Sons to be appointed lawmakers

In the election last week, the CPP fielded several candidates who were the sons of senior party leaders, some of whom had lost but will still be able to enter the National Assembly.

At least three of them—Hun Sen’s son Hun Many, Sar Kheng’s son Sar Sokha, and Senate Deputy President Say Chhum’s son Say San Al—will replace elderly CPP lawmakers when the new government is formed, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Wednesday.

At least 10 elderly lawmakers will be resigning in order to yield their seats to younger CPP leaders like the three sons, he said.

He said the three would be appointed members of parliament despite not having won their elections because of their leadership abilities and because they have made strong contributions to the party.

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


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