CNRP Vows More Protests if Demands Not Met

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha on Tuesday ended the CNRP’s three-day demonstration in Phnom Penh, but vowed to hold further demonstrations if the National Assembly is convened on Monday without an agreement having been reached with the ruling CPP over the disputed results of July’s election.

Mr. Rainsy arrived at Freedom Park just after 4 p.m. to greet the thousands of people who turned out for the last day of the mass protest that began Sunday and peaked that night with violent clashes in which security forces shot dead a man near Monivong Bridge.

A monk holds up a placard on the final day of the Cambodia National Rescue Party's three-day demonstration against voting irregularities at Phnom Penh's Freedom Park on Tuesday. (Siv Channa)
A monk holds up a placard on the final day of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s three-day demonstration against voting irregularities at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on Tuesday. (Siv Channa)

Addressing the crowd, Mr. Rainsy said negotiations with the ruling party had ultimately been fruitless.

“This morning we met with the top leaders of the CPP,” he told the 20,000 or so assembled demonstrators. “We had discussions for three hours but did not succeed any more than we succeeded yesterday.”

The CNRP is calling for an independent investigation into alleged electoral irregularities and the party on Sunday released a set of new demands including reforms to the National Election Committee, a new national voter list and its own television station.

Mr. Rainsy added that the CNRP would stick to its plans to boycott the opening of the National Assembly on Monday, which King Norodom Sihamoni announced early last week, if there is no breakthrough.

“Our stance is still the same,” Mr. Rainsy said.

Speaking after Mr. Rainsy, CNRP vice president Mr. Sokha asked supporters not to be disappointed that the demonstration was ending before the CPP agreed to demands that the CNRP says are necessary to end the deadlock.

“The demonstration does not end today,” Mr. Sokha said. “We are just suspending it, because we promised to hold it for three days, but we will continue political negotiations to demand what you want.”

Mr. Sokha told the crowd the CNRP’s demonstrations would continue—and even grow—if the National Assembly is convened on Monday in their absence.

“If negotiations fail until [September] 22nd, on [September] 23rd, the lawmakers elected from the CNRP will not join the meeting of the National Assembly,” he said. “They will still be meeting alone, [and] we will have other mass demonstrations nationwide.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann on Tuesday confirmed that the party would continue negotiations with the CPP and would hold renewed mass demonstrations if the National Assembly is convened before opposition lawmakers agree to take their seats. But he said that it was not yet decided whether those demonstrations would spread beyond Phnom Penh.

“It depends on the decision of the standing committee of the party,” he said. “We can hold them in Phnom Penh or throughout the country.”

The demonstration opened at Freedom Park on Tuesday morning with a parade of CNRP youth around the venue, before a day of onstage fundraising and highly-political live music, punctuated only by a monk reportedly briefly trying to set himself alight on­stage just before midday.

CNRP lawmakers-elect Tioulong Saumura and Mu Sochua, and Prince Sisowath Thomico, who lost in single-seat Preah Sihanouk province, also gave speeches in the long build up to the arrival of Mr. Rainsy and Mr. Sokha in the afternoon.

After the two senior leaders had delivered their speeches—and shortly after CNRP campaigners on stage released balloons into the sky after Mr. Rainsy counted down from seven—the opposition leader finally closed the event.

“In a minute, when we announce the end to our mass demonstration, you can return back home, happy in heart and in mind,” Mr. Rainsy said, exhorting demonstrators to keep disseminating the CNRP’s message after they had departed from Freedom Park.

“When you return back home, tell your neighbors, relatives and all of your friends that the power of love for your nation, the power of justice, is the way forward,” he said.

Demonstrators departing from the park shared mixed opinions about the usefulness of the event in helping to extract the opposition’s demands during negotiations with the CPP.

“Our nonviolent mass demonstration has moved things forward in three days, even though we haven’t received a real result,” said 52-year-old Mann Dany, adding that the fervor of the event would not die down if another demonstration was called.

“I think many people will participate in the next demonstration, and I will continue to come,” he said.

Ke Veasna, 24, said that given the events in the past three days, it was disheartening that the demonstration had been closed with the CNRP outwardly in no better position than before.

“I feel disappointed that the three-day demonstration ended without a real resolution to show, specifically given the case of one man being shot dead at the Monivong Bridge,” he said.

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