More than 3,000 student protesters marched on the Royal Palace on Wednesday to present petitions to King Norodom Sihanouk rejecting the election results that were officially announced Tuesday.
The “Students for Democracy” then marched through the capital, jamming Norodom Boulevard at noon and eventually protesting outside the European Union office. The EU was the largest single foreign donor to the polls.
“We are holding this demonstration to find justice for Cambodia,” said Lim Srou, 21, a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts.
The petition, which opposition leaders said had more than 20,000 signatures, accused Second Prime Minister Hun Sen of bringing the country to ruin.
“Hun Sen has led the country into disaster,” the petition said. “The people only see suffering and tears….Hun Sen has shown clearly that he does not think about the interests of the Cambodian people.”
A representative for the King, who is now in Siem Reap, accepted the petition.
Hun Sen has refused to resign, saying his victory in the polls indicated the will of the people.
The National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council, both of which the opposition contends are biased in favor of the CPP, have categorically rejected the complaints.
The international community, including a UN-coordinated election observation team, has generally been supportive of the polls, deeming them free and fair, but the opposition remains unmoved by this verdict.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the EU office in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to contest the organization’s favorable statements on the elections.
“We do not agree with the results of the election. We want the EU to get the evidence to show all the Cambodian people if it was really fair,” Hen Chhun, 31, a Faculty of Business student, announced into a microphone.
The students had trouble finding the EU office. They demonstrated outside the Belgian Consulate first, apparently because it had a large EU flag outside, before moving on to the EU Support for Democracy headquarters on Pasteur Street.
If their grievances are not addressed, some students warned, they will boycott their classes.
“We will continue to rally until we find a good solution. We students will not allow any party to cheat the people’s will,” said Chhin Tamkich, a university student.
One statement over the loudspeaker threatened violence if television news, generally controlled or influenced by the CPP, did not cover their demonstration. The television stations have downplayed the protests, which have drawn as many as 15,000.
“We hold a peaceful demonstration today, but we will not take responsibility for tomorrow’s accident, especially if the state-run television won’t broadcast our news,” a student said.
Earlier Wednesday, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh vowed to continue the demonstrations as long as necessary. He said that unless the CPP moved to resolve the crisis, the political stalemate and instability would continue.
“If there is no solution, it will be a very difficult situation for Cambodia,” he told reporters at a news conference.
“We must respect the will of the people,” the prince added. “But if the people think we should put an end to the demonstration, we will. They will let us know and we will follow the will of the people.’’
Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have been the vanguard of the ongoing protest that has drawn thousands of people to a park dubbed “Democracy Square” in front of the National Assembly.
The protesters are demanding that opposition complaints of widespread vote fraud and irregularities in the July 26 election be addressed. They also want Hun Sen to resign.
“Unless we obtain satisfaction….the sit-in will go on,” Prince Ranariddh said. “We will not stop, and when I say ‘we’, I mean clearly the people of Cambodia.”
The two parties, which won the remainder of parliamentary seats, have threatened to boycott parliament unless their complaints are resolved, a move that could lead to a constitutional crisis.
“They need us [so] they have to take our view into consideration,” the prince said.
A coalition is necessary because, while the CPP has a majority in parliament, it lacks the two-thirds needed to form a government on its own.
Prince Ranariddh said attempts to get around that requirement by amending the Constitution or keeping the current government in place would be met with increased resistance.
The prince added that even if such moves were made, the government would be illegal and the opposition would push the international community not to recognize it.
(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)