Phnom Penh Municipality on Thursday denied a request from the Cambodian Conference of Unions to hold a demonstration outside the National Assembly to mark today’s visit of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and to demand that Thai military forces withdraw from the vicinity of Preah Vihear temple.
The union, however, has vowed to go ahead with its planned protest despite warnings that they will be held accountable for any disturbance to public order.
“We will continue to protest regardless of the denial,” CCU representative Mao Pises said following one hour of discussions with City Hall officials on Thursday afternoon.
“City hall has denied use permission. But they said, diplomatically, that they would discuss with the Ministry of Interior about the protest,” Mr Pises continued.
The municipality has also warned, he added, that the union will be “responsible before the law if we protest.”
CCU President Rong Chhun issued a statement on Wednesday informing Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema that around 150 people plan to gather at the former National Assembly building on Sothearos Boulevard and will then march to the new National Assembly building and the nearby Ministry of Foreign Affairs, before marching to Independence Monument where the protest will end.
“[D]uring Thai Prime Minister Abhisit’s visit the Cambodian Conference of Unions will gather teachers, workers, civil society and other people in order to demand Thailand abandon its plan to in-
vade Cambodia, and withdraw its troops,” the statement reads.
The protesters will also demand financial compensation for the Cambodian villagers whose homes and market stalls were destroyed during fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops at the temple in April, the statement adds.
Mr Chhun, who was absent from the meeting with municipal of ficials on Thursday, said that the protestors will stick to their plan.
“We won’t abandon the plan,” Mr Chhun said by telephone.
“We are not afraid of being arrested because we are not against the Cambodian or Thai governments. We want the Thai government to respect our territorial integrity,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipality Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said that city officials didn’t give permission for the protest during the Thai prime minister’s visit because it would not resolve the border dispute.
“We shouldn’t have the image of protests,” the deputy governor said.
“It will affect the country’s dignity, and protests won’t resolve the border issue,” he said.
Mr Socheatvong, however, said that he would request a recommendation from the Ministry of Interior concerning today’s demonstration, but also warned that authorities will take measures against “illegal protests.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said that protesting in the streets about Preah Vihear was unnecessary as Prime Minister Hun Sen will discuss the border issue bilaterally with Mr Abhisit.
“Protests are not necessary as, so far, Thailand and Cambodia have peaceful [solutions] with understanding,” he said.
Thai Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.