The opposition CNRP said Thursday that a public forum it held in Prey Veng province on Wednesday was shut down by armed forces who blasted the infectious Korean hit “Gangnam Style” and other pop songs at earsplitting volume from a loudspeaker.
In response, the party released a statement Thursday threatening to halt all negotiations with the CPP should another of its forums be disrupted.
“Militia men, policemen, and another group of armed men, who could have been soldiers, descended on the forum and used a giant loudspeaker mounted on the back of a green truck to spoil it,” Mr. Rainsy said Thursday at a press conference in Phnom Penh, at which he also played video footage of the onslaught of music.
“It was impossible to hold a forum, no one could hear anything.”
After half an hour, Mr. Rainsy said he attempted to negotiate with those controlling the loudspeaker.
“When we tried to talk to them they acted in a threatening way with their guns, making the situation more tense, and we didn’t want to put lives in jeopardy, so we stopped the forum,” Mr. Rainsy said.
Duch Kunthea, governor of Kanh Chriech district, where the abortive forum was held, denied that authorities had disrupted the event, which had attracted about 1,000 people.
“The authorities were present to maintain public order…we did not interrupt them,” he said.
At Thursday’s press conference, CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha said the party would refuse to negotiate further with the CPP if the problem occurred again.
“We have taken the next step in negotiations, now we need to stay at the negotiating table,” Mr. Sokha said, referring to talks between the two parties held Tuesday, the first since the CNRP suspended negotiations after Brigade 911 paratroopers violently dispersed a garment worker strike in Phnom Penh on January 2.
“But how can we negotiate [with them] under the barrel of a gun?” Mr. Sokha said.
Another opposition forum held Thursday afternoon in Kompong Chhnang province proceeded without interruption.
“It went very smoothly. There was no police, no armed forces, no militia, no thugs. Compared to Prey Veng, it was day and night,” Mr. Rainsy said afterward.
“They knew I was serious, and the world is watching,” he added.
“If [the CPP] interrupts, we stop negotiating and they will get the blame.”