Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, scheduled to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for their alleged role in violent demonstrations in the garment sector, continued to stress their commitment to nonviolence on Sunday at rallies in the provincial capitals of Battambang and Pursat.
“If anyone uses violence, they are not a part of the CNRP,” Mr. Sokha told hundreds of supporters at a rally in Pursat province.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 4 issued summonses for the CNRP leaders, along with union leaders Rong Chhun and Ath Thorn, to be questioned for allegedly inciting garment workers to take part in protests on January 3 in which police shot dead at least five workers and injured dozens more.
Speaking to hundreds of supporters gathered in Battambang, Mr. Rainsy advised them to “be patient and follow nonviolence to keep good public order.”
Following July’s disputed election, Mr. Rainsy said that the CNRP would follow a nonviolent model of protest championed by Mahatma Gandhi in India.
However, the government contends that although CNRP marches and demonstrations in Freedom Park remained peaceful, the party supported violent protests among garment workers demanding a higher minimum wage. In what it claimed was a measure to restore public order, the CPP government on January 4 indefinitely suspended the constitutional right to assemble and demonstrate.
Despite the ban, the CNRP’s rallies in provincial capitals over the past three days, held mostly in private residences with supporters spilling onto the street, were allowed to go ahead. On Saturday, the CNRP leaders even led a brief march, with more than 100 supporters, through Poipet City.
“We did not intend to organize demonstrations or march,” Mr. Rainsy said of the tour through Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Pursat provinces that began on Friday. “It is just to touch base with our network.”
Chuong Chou Ngy, the lawyer representing Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha, said Sunday that he had submitted a request to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to delay the scheduled questioning of the opposition leaders because he was busy with other cases in Takeo province.
However, Mr. Rainsy said he and Mr. Sokha would find new legal counsel and appear, as promised, for their court date.
“My lawyer is busy, as I was told. But we will hire another lawyer on my part and Kem Sokha will do the same,” he said. “So we will have lawyers to accompany us on Tuesday.”