Opposition CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua last night emerged from a meeting with Phnom Penh City Hall representatives proclaiming that she had the assurance of the Municipal police chief that there would be no roadblocks in or around Phnom Penh during the opposition’s three-day demonstration starting today.
“We had very positive results from our meeting with the municipality today,” Ms. Sochua said last night. “[Phnom Penh municipal police chief] Chuon Sovann gave us assurances that there would be no roadblocks to hinder the demonstration—not in the city or around.”
“If roadblocks are set up,” she continued, “that will become the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior because we have the police chief’s word.”
During the CNRP’s previous three days of demonstration in mid-September, barricades and razor-wire barricades blocking roads brought Phnom Penh’s four central districts to a near standstill.
On the evening of the first day of the demonstration, roadblocks around Monivong Bridge led to commuters and protesters becoming angry. Protesters armed with stones engaged in a skirmish with military police and police, who in turn opened fire, killing one man and injuring several more.
Ms. Sochua said last night that the authorities’ pledge of no roadblocks offered hope that the demonstration could pass without such an incident taking place again.
“No roadblocks means the people, both demonstrators and ordinary citizens, can move freely around the city, as they should. We [the CNRP] trust them [to not install roadblocks].”
Despite the assurances provided, local rights group Licadho was reporting on its website Tuesday afternoon that National Police and military police had set up security checkpoints on all six national roads leading into Phnom Penh.
Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said that the checkpoints were necessary to ensure the safety of citizens during the demonstration.
“Our forces have set up checkpoints on the roads surrounding Phnom Penh city to check for illegal weapons that could be used to provoke violence in a crowd of protesters,” he said.
“We do not prohibit protesters from coming into Phnom Penh because people have the right to demonstrate but they must obey the law,” Brig. Gen. Tito said, adding, however, that the roadblocks in the city center would come into play should the situation call for them.
“We will block some main roads, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house and important state institutions if necessary,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at Licadho, said that checkpoints had been set up on all six major roads leading into the city in order to lower the numbers attending today’s demonstration.
“We always see the police set up these checkpoints for the purpose of disturbing people coming to Phnom Penh for peaceful protests,” Mr. Sam Ath said.