Amnesty International on Friday called for authorities to ensure that no blood is spilled over the coming weeks after armored personnel carriers (APCs) were spotted and razor-wire barricades were delivered to Phnom Penh on Thursday and Friday.
In a statement, Amnesty’s deputy Asia Pacific director, Isabelle Arradon, warned that such posturing from the authorities must not develop into the use of force against people as tensions mount in the wake of the contested election.
“Cambodian authorities and other political leaders in Cambodia must ensure that the post-election tension does not erupt into violence,” Ms. Arradon said.
“Many Cambodians have called for changes—political leaders should do all they can to ensure that these are achieved peacefully and with full respect for human rights,” she said, adding that the rights of people to peacefully protest the outcome must be respected.
Although the opposition CNRP has repeatedly urged its supporters to exercise restraint and stated that it considers peaceful demonstrations a last resort, that has not stopped the ruling CPP from firing back with a volley of threats about trouble and consequences ahead.
Speaking after the election, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of violence if the opposition decides to take to the streets to protest the result of the election.
“The Cambodian people, including supporters of political parties, must be given the space to express their views and they must be allowed to enjoy their right to peaceful assembly,” Ms. Arradon continued.
“Political leaders must call on their supporters not to commit violence and human rights abuses against others, including on grounds of political opinion and ethnicity.
“The Cambodian security forces, which have a chequered record when policing demonstrations, must refrain from using excessive or unnecessary force against demonstrators. They must not make tense situations even more volatile by failing to respect human rights.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the only reason the APCs—mounted with recoilless guns—had been moved is because Cambodian authorities don’t have a cavalry division to keep crowds in check.
“Why deploy the APCs? Because we don’t have horses and the government has to prevent all violence from taking place,” he said.
He added that CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had been inciting people to call for change and that the APCs would protect people if demonstrations are called and violence breaks out.