The CNRP will hold a “people’s congress” in Freedom Park on Sunday before staging another mass protest on October 23 to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, according to a statement released by the party on Saturday.
“A mass demonstration at Freedom Park will be held on October 23 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in order to bring a petition to the United Nations and the signatories of the Paris Peace Agreements signed on October 23, 1991, through the United Nation’s high commissioner to Cambodia,” the statement says.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said that the opposition party hoped to gather more than 3 million thumbprints before submitting the petition, adding that the gathering on Sunday would be used to gauge the feelings of CNRP supporters as the party decides how it will respond to the CPP’s formation of a government despite an opposition boycott of the National Assembly.
“The general congress set to take place on October 6 will be for the CNRP to express its political stance and ask for decisions from the party’s supporters,” Mr. Ponhearith said. “We need more time to make a petition because we need more than 3 million thumbprints attached to the petition before we send it out.”
Kem Monovithya, CNRP deputy director of public affairs, said the party expected at least 10,000 supporters to turn out for the October 23 demonstration.
Long Dimanche, spokesman for City Hall, and Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said they could not comment on the CNRP’s plans as they had yet to receive an official notice from the party.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that the only way that the demonstration would be called off is if the CPP agreed to an investigation into election irregularities, which he claims robbed the CNRP of victory.
“[The CPP] seems to refuse our demands on the basis that we lost the election, so any negotiation is based on a false assumption. We are bound to lose [in negotiations] if we accept that we lost the election. So if they think they won the election they should accept an investigation,” he said.
Should the CNRP hold further demonstrations, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Wednesday that the CPP would post on Facebook recordings of previous negotiations between the two parties to show opposition supporters that CNRP leaders dropped their insistence on an election investigation in exchange for positions in parliament.
Ms. Monovithya welcomed the move from Mr. Hun Sen.
“We encourage the public to be aware of the negotiations, so the CPP can go ahead and release the audio, but the CPP should release the whole audio,” she said.
If the CNRP hopes to push the CPP to make significant concessions, it needs to expand its demonstrations beyond the capital and focus on “people power” rather than lobbying the international community to help, said independent political analyst Kem Ley.
“If the CNRP will organize the same type of session [confined to Phnom Penh] it’s not effective at all. If they test out a mass demonstration [in the provinces] where the people are living, this will be a good strategy by the CNRP to get negotiating power,” Mr. Ley said.
The CNRP also needs to be specific about what it hopes to achieve through its demonstrations, whether it is an investigation into the election or greater checks and balances within the National Assembly, he said.
“They have to set a clear target and expected outcome from the demonstrations. They must focus on how to use people’s power,” he said, adding that calls for international pressure or sanctions against the government were unlikely to be effective.
But fellow political analyst Lao Mong Hay said he remained optimistic that signatories to the Paris Peace Agreements may be sympathetic to calls from Cambodians for the protection of their basic democratic rights, as outlined in the peace deal.
“One of the core grievances of the opposition party, as well as its supporters, is election irregularities, and that issue has not been addressed satisfactorily. So, in a way, there is still the question of basic rights of the Cambodian people; the right to vote, the right to choose their leaders,” he said.
“State signatories to the Paris Peace Agreement have an international obligation toward the Cambodian people with regard to democracy, democratic rule of law and human rights in Cambodia. Those countries, or at least some of them, would honor their obligation and do something,” he said.