Amid Security Fears, New Wall Erected Around National Assembly

Work on a new wall reinforced with steel posts has begun outside the National Assembly building, though the body’s spokesman said Tuesday it was not designed to ensure security should the opposition CNRP call for mass protests.

Armored personnel carriers (APCs), razor-wire barricades and an increased police presence have created an atmosphere of heightened security in post-election Phnom Penh.

Laborers work on the initial stages of a wall being built around the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa)
Laborers work on the initial stages of a wall being built around the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa)

Government officials have said the APCs and troop deployment are a necessary measure to ensure stability in the country after the CNRP disputed the results of last month’s election and said it would resort to mass demonstrations if irregularities at the polls are not investigated credibly.

But CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun on Tuesday denied the new wall had anything to do with security measures, saying instead that it was a defense against public urination.

“It is to keep people from urinating on our fence and to keep people from parking their cars on the sidewalk outside,” he said, adding that the wall was “not related to the election.”

“Every five years we do repair work in the National Assembly,” he said. “It is about creating the best environment for all members of Parliament—and not just the CPP.”

Outside the National Assembly on Tuesday, steel posts standing 2 meters tall had been cemented into the sidewalk between the road and the original cement wall that surrounds the Assembly.

Despite denying that the new wall was related to potential pro­tests over the disputed election results, Mr. Vun said that the current wall—which shows no sign of damage but has thin cavities between its columns—was often breached by demonstrators.

“Protesters use microphones and they can stick them through the [cavities in the] fence—this disturbs us from our work,” he said.

While the CNRP has said it will only call for mass protests as a last resort, Interior Minister Sar Kheng has said increased security is meant to stave off social unrest in the wake of the election—which both parties claim to have won, and which the opposition alleges was marred by fraud.

On Monday night, a small convoy of military vehicles mounted with automatic guns was seen patrolling Norodom Boulevard in the vicinity of the Ministry of Interior.

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