Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha on Thursday led more than 1,000 supporters to deliver petitions to the French, British and U.S. embassies before settling in for a second day of demonstrations at Freedom Park, where crowds were significantly smaller than on Wednesday, peaking at about 7,000 in the early evening.
At about 9 a.m., Mr. Sokha briefly addressed the party’s supporters gathered at Freedom Park, mostly people from outside the city who had stayed overnight, and with little fanfare began the march to the French Embassy, which joined another group of followers waiting with Mr. Rainsy in front of the diplomatic compound. There a delegation of four CNRP leaders entered the embassy for a brief meeting with French Ambassador Serge Mostura and delivered a petition of more than 2 million signatures, which calls on signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement to fulfill their commitment to ensure a multiparty democracy prevails in Cambodia.
“Today our ambassador had a brief encounter with the delegation of the CNRP over resuming the dialogue between the political parties in Cambodia,” said Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French Embassy.
Mr. Rainsy traveled to Paris last week to meet with government officials as part of an international tour to encourage foreign countries to cut relations with the CPP government of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Nevertheless, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault sent a letter to Mr. Hun Sen on October 13 congratulating him on his election victory.
The CNRP petition, addressed to the leader of each country that signed the 1991 agreement, calls for foreign governments to “ensure the enforcement” of the peace accord, but does not specify how this should be achieved. Mr. Rainsy has previously suggested threats to cut aid or sanctions.
“[W]e seek your assistance in resolving the current political deadlock by ensuring the enforcement of the Paris Peace Accords, the sole foundation for multiparty democracy and development for our nation,” the petition states.
The second stop on the CNRP’s march Thursday, which came the day after the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, was the British Embassy, where representatives were escorted inside as their supporters waited outside.
Bryony Mathew, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy, said only that “We accepted the petition and had a short conversation,” declining to say who met with the CNRP delegation, which was composed of Mr. Rainsy, Mr. Sokha, lawmaker-elect Yem Ponhearith and Kem Monovithya, a member of the CNRP standing committee and Mr. Sokha’s daughter.
After briefly closing down Monivong Boulevard with their march, the CNRP made their final stop at the U.S. Embassy, where the CNRP leaders were met on the sidewalk outside the embassy and handed over a petition to a security official working there, who shook hands and quickly walked back into the compound.
“A U.S. Embassy security official received the petition,” embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh said in an email. “As we have consistently stated, the United States urges both parties to seek resolution of electoral disputes through peaceful dialogue that…promotes reforms.”
The governments of the U.S. and U.K. have yet to formally endorse the election victory of Mr. Hun Sen.
After delivering the petition to each embassy, Mr. Rainsy, addressed the marchers.
Outside the U.S. Embassy he said “The U.S.’ stance is most important right now because they plead for an independent investigation to spread the truth and resolve irregularities.”
Throughout the march there was little police presence, less even than Wednesday, and supporters walked unencumbered.
Returning to Freedom Park, Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha briefly addressed the crowd and said they would return in the afternoon to listen to supporters air their hopes for the CNRP and grievances against the administration of Mr. Hun Sen.
Throughout the afternoon, a crowd of a few thousand stayed at the park, most of them seeking shade under large tents, as CNRP supporters from across the country took to the stage. Other acts, including singers and a magician who swallowed and regurgitated razor blades, also kept the crowd entertained.
The crowd peaked in the late afternoon at less than half the size of Wednesday’s rally, in which more than 20,000 CNRP supporters turned out, a drop that CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann attributed to Wednesday having been a holiday and supporters from the countryside returning home as tents had been filled to over capacity the previous night.
Shortly after 5 p.m., Mr. Sokha and Mr. Rainsy stepped up to the microphone again.
“Listening to you from Phnom Penh about Boeng Kak. Listening to you from Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri, all provinces where they steal, rob farmland and houses. They cut the forest, destroy natural resources, everything that supports our daily lives,” Mr. Rainsy said. “This time they want to kill the people’s will. They want to kill our nation. They want to empty the land and give it to foreign invaders.”