Phnom Penh City Hall has rejected the CNRP’s request to hold three simultaneous marches to the National Assembly to mark International Human Rights Day on Tuesday, saying the opposition party could gather a maximum of 10,000 people only at Freedom Park.
Long Dimanche, City Hall spokesman, said on Friday that the municipality would not approve the CNRP’s rally in front of the National Assembly, though the Interior Ministry will have the final say.
“We won’t allow them to hold the event in front of the National Assembly, but we will allow them to hold it at Freedom Park,” he said.
Mr. Dimanche stressed that City Hall would only allow between 8,000 and 10,000 opposition supporters to attend the gathering.
“We are asking the Ministry of Interior to decide whether or not to approve the marches and number of participants,” he added.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said that he expected more than 15,000 people to attend the marches, which he said will now end at Freedom Park. Once gathered at the park, it will then be decided whether to march to the National Assembly or not.
“When we arrive at Freedom Park…we will consider whether to march to the National Assembly,” he said.
The CNRP sent a letter to the municipality earlier this week stating that the marches will head directly to the National Assembly.
Of the three marches, one will leave from the CNRP’s office in Meanchey district, one will leave from their office in Tuol Kok district, and the last will proceed via National Road 5 from Russei Keo district, Mr. Ponhearith said.
“Marching isn’t a problem because we saw how last time when we asked to march, City Hall forwarded the request on to the Ministry of Interior, who approved it,” he said.
“Freedom of expression means there is no limit to the number of people who can attend because they are coming to voice their opinion,” he added.
Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, said Friday that military police forces will monitor the marches on Tuesday, ostensibly to ensure the flow of traffic is not affected.
“Our forces will ease traffic jams but if they march with more than the number of people permitted by City Hall, and if there is any violence, then it will be the responsibility of the protest leader,” Brig. Gen. Tito said.
He said there would not be any roadblocks if demonstrators followed the plans that the CNRP had submitted to the municipality.
Ke Sovannaroth, a CNRP lawmaker-elect for Siem Reap where a second demonstration will be held on Tuesday, said earlier this week that authorities there had agreed to an opposition rally, but not their planned march, which is scheduled to go to Angkor Wat.
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