Two academic bodies announced this week that they would protest Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia, accusing the opposition leader of destabilizing the country, organizing protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen in the US, and being part of the so-called “shadow army” of jailed opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy.
The Cambodian Higher Education Association and the Royal University of Law and Economic Sciences said they would organize students and faculty to rally against the opposition leader when he arrives in Phnom Penh.
“The demonstration is a result of students’ reaction to demonstrations against Samdech Hun Sen,” said In Viracheat, head of the Cambodian Higher Education Association, adding that he had already requested permission for the protest from Phnom Penh municipality.
Protests against the premier were organized in New York during his trip to UN headquarters and in Paris during his visit with French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac. Mam Bun Neang, first deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said he had not received the protest request.
Youk Ngoy, rector of the Royal University of Law and Economic Sciences, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but a statement released by the university Tuesday accused Sam Rainsy of being responsible for Cheam Channy’s “shadow army.”
Sam Rainsy welcomed the protests and asserted that he would return to Cambodia by the end of September or in early October.
“They have the right to demonstrate,” Sam Rainsy said Wednesday on Kem Sokha’s human rights radio program. Khem Sokha is director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
“I suggest the authorities respect the rights of everyone,” Rainsy said.
“We respect their rights, even though we disagree,” added opposition spokesman Ung Bun-Ang. “All we ask is that the protest be nonviolent.”
Opposition officials have pledged several times over the last few months that Sam Rainsy’s return was imminent. They last insisted the opposition leader would return on Sept 14.
Ung Bun-Ang suggested that the two groups also protest against poverty and rising fuel prices.