The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) canceled a planned rally in a central province on Tuesday, alleging that Prime Minister Hun Sen's party had sent a group of people to cause trouble at the gathering, days after the government violently cracked down on opposition protests and workers' strikes.
CNRP President Sam Rainsy and Deputy President Kem Sokha said they aborted their trip to Kandal province, a Hun Sen stronghold which surrounds the capital Phnom Penh, to avoid falling into the "trap" of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) which they said was planning to incite violence.
Sam Rainsy said the CPP "transported about 1,000 Hun Sen bodyguards who were disguised [to provoke problems]" at the site teeming with security forces who appeared prepared to suppress any violence.
He said that his party cancelled the gathering to avoid clashes between CNRP supporters and security forces.
“This is a trick that was played to arrest us and jail us," Eng Chhay Eang, the CNRP’s head in Kandal, was quoted saying by The Phnom Penh Post newspaper. "We do not play this game, [so] we decided to postpone.”
Security forces took no action to disperse the large group of potential troublemakers at the rally site despite requests from the opposition, local CNRP officials said.
Opposition to continue with rallies
Kem Sokha however vowed to continue holding CNRP rallies in the coming days.
"We will continue our political activities peacefully. We are trying to avoid violence. We don't use violent means to resolve issues like the ruling party does," he said.
Tuesday's incident came more than two weeks after police shot dead four people during a strike by garment workers in the outskirts of Phnom Penh and violently dispersed CNRP supporters at the capital's Freedom Park after they demanded that Hun Sen step down and hold fresh elections.
The CNRP claimed it was robbed of victory in July 2013 elections which it said was marred by fraud and other irregularities. The government-appointed election body declared Hun Sen's CPP the victor and dismissed calls for an independent investigation by the CNRP which has boycotted parliament.
The deadly crackdown on Jan. 3 has also led to a ban on protests in Phnom Penh.
Petition bid thwarted