Commuter Anger as Security Forces Close City Roads—Again

Commuters were saddled with lengthy travel times and the Supreme Court and Appeal Court were closed Monday as security forces closed off major and minor roads with razor-wire barricades, creating a chokehold of traffic in the city center.

The barricades were mostly placed along Sisowath Quay and Norodom Boulevard, cutting off access to the Royal Palace and the National Assembly, where lawmakers from the ruling CPP convened for the first day of parliament without opposition lawmakers. All roads connecting to Indepen­dence Monu­ment and roads linking Norodom Boulevard to Street 51 were also blocked off.

Dozens of riot police were stationed around Norodom Boule­vard, near the National Assembly, and around Wat Phnom—the site of a clash Sunday night when a mob of mostly young men dressed in civilian clothes attacked anti-eviction protesters, human rights monitors and journalists while military police officers looked on.

Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said that more than a thousand armed forces were deployed across the city to maintain the safety of the CPP lawmakers who attended the opening of the National Assembly.

Operations at the Appeal Court and Supreme Court—located near the Royal Palace—came to a standstill because employees were unable to get to the courts, officials said.

“The Supreme Court didn’t work today because the roads were all blocked and we could not enter to work,” Khim Pon, deputy director of the Supreme Court, said.

Seng Sokun, Appeal Court clerk, said scheduled hearings had to be postponed.

Frustrated commuters waited as traffic police stationed on Norodom Boulevard allowed certain vehicles bearing CPP stickers through the barricades, which the Interior Ministry said would be in place until Wednesday.

Nuth Sreynith, a 22-year-old student at Build Bright University—located nearby the National Assembly—had factored the roadblocks into her travel time, but was upset that she had to wait hours just to travel four blocks.

“I have to be there for an exam in the afternoon, so I was going early because I am afraid they would block again,” she said. “But now I have spent about two hours here.”

Sin Meng, 29, said he only had to travel two blocks to get to The Warehouse, a wine store on Street 240 where he works as a manager, but had been waiting at the intersection on Norodom Boulevard for three hours.

“I don’t like this. This year is the first time it’s been like this,” Mr. Meng said. “If they have a demonstration, they will close the roads, but if they don’t, then they would open it. That’s what they’re worried about.”

An Interior Ministry statement re­leased in the afternoon asked the people to “understand and tolerate” the roadblocks, which will be in place until Wednesday. Calling the extreme security “inevitable,” the ministry said it was to ensure that “Cambodian society continues to enjoy sustainability, stability and development.”

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)

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