The Phnom Penh Municipality on Wednesday turned down a request from Sam Rainsy to hold a controversial demonstration, and passed the problem on to the National Assembly and the National Election Committee.
But Sam Rainsy Party members vowed to hold the rally anyway on Sunday.
In a letter signed by Mann Chhoeurn, chief of Cabinet for the municipality, the city apologized for the rejection, citing a June 12 notice banning demonstrations during the campaign season.
“The municipality is sorry that your request is not allowed,” the letter read. “In such a situation Phnom Penh Municipality thinks that it is better for you to make a motion for your request and reasons, and forward it to the Assembly and the NEC so it will be solved peacefully.”
The ban drew widespread criticism from election observers and rights officials as an infringement on constitutional rights.
Sam Rainsy is planning a Sunday demonstration starting at 7:30 am at the Olympic Stadium to demand free and fair elections.
Yim Sovann, an assistant to Sam Rainsy, said the party has no intention of asking the NEC or the National Assembly for permission because it is a matter for the city or the Ministry of Interior.
“There’s no need to make a request to the NEC. It’s not a [political rally],” he said. “It’s an expression of our opinion and feelings.”
UN Asia-Pacific Division Director Francesc Vendrell raised the issue of the ban on demonstrations in talks with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the prime minister’s aide, Chum Bun Rong, said the government did not intend to ban demonstrations, but merely wanted to prevent outbreaks of violence during the campaign.
The US Embassy issued a warning to its citizens to stay away from its embassy, Olympic Stadium and the National Assembly on Sunday morning and reiterated its advice to avoid political rallies in general.
(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)