The opposition CNRP has informed authorities it will hold marches in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to mark International Human Rights Day on Tuesday, including a march to Angkor Wat.
The CNRP on Monday sent a letter to Phnom Penh City Hall stating that it will lead three separate marches in the capital that will converge on the National Assembly to demand greater respect for human rights.
“The CNRP will hold peaceful marches presided over by the president, deputy president and leaders of the CNRP with tens of thousands of participants headed to the front of the National Assembly,” the letter states.
The marches will start at the CNRP’s headquarters in Meanchey district, the Pet Lok Sang Sky Bridge on Russian Boulevard and the Sokimex park on National Road 5, the statement adds.
Municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said that authorities would discuss the letter in the coming days.
Ke Sovannaroth, a CNRP lawmaker-elect for Siem Reap and head of the CNRP working group in the province, said marches would also take place in Siem Reap City to mark Human Rights Day and would also go to Angkor Wat.
Ms. Sovannaroth said Siem Reap authorities agreed on Tuesday to the CNRP’s rally, but said they could not march around the city’s streets. CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann estimated Sunday that about 5,000 people would attend the march in the tourist town.
“The provincial authorities have agreed to our request but they set one condition: We must gather in one place. We rejected it because our demonstration cannot stand still in one place,” Ms. Sovannaroth said.
“So long as there are no problems like traffic jams, we will go into Angkor Wat since Angkor Wat is the place where people pay their respects and it is our [national] symbol,” she said.
“We want to pay respect to our heritage.”
Mr. Sovann said CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha will attend both marches.
“They will attend the Siem Reap march in the morning and in the afternoon they will fly to Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that there was no law to prevent the march to Angkor Wat.
The march will begin and end at Angkor Pyung Yu park on the outskirts of the city, Ms. Sovannaroth explained. The marchers will pass the markets in the center of the city during the circuit and also stop to pray at Preah Ang Chek and Preah Eng Chorm shrine, which lies in the garden opposite the Royal Residence in Siem Reap City.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that the CNRP would, as a matter of national government policy, be prevented from holding a rally at Angkor Wat.
“In front of Angkor Wat, where tourism is concentrated, it will disturb the tourists,” Mr. Siphan said.
“Angkor Wat is also protected under World Heritage listing and the Constitution, and so people are not allowed to protest there.”
He said it would be the responsibility of provincial authorities to decide how to prevent the marchers from reaching Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap provincial governor Khim Bunsong said he would not allow demonstrators to march to Angkor Wat.
“We will only allow them to hold a rally. We will not allow them to march, as it will affect tourism,” he said, before declining to comment further.
Although the CNRP would not be allowed to march to Angkor Wat, Mr. Siphan said the government occasionally allowed diplomatic and cultural ceremonies.
Last April, several thousand Thai “red-shirt” supporters turned out to a government-endorsed ceremony at Angkor Wat during a trip to the country by fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a close friend and adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
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