As the sit-in across from the National Assembly continued to grow in its fourth day, the government responded to the protests on Thursday with hints that Sam Rainsy could be arrested if there were any “problems.”
“The Sam Rainsy Party has continually organized activities to create social unrest and violate the law opposed to principles of democracy, which they themselves say they are heroes of,” a statement by the Council of Ministers’ spokesman’s office said.
“The party and this individual person have to take responsibility in front of the law for any kind of problems that could result from their irresponsible and immoral behavior,” said the statement, which was to be broadcast on state radio and television.
The statement did not mention Funcinpec, the co-organizers of the four-day-old sit-in across from the National Assembly.
A CPP statement broadcast earlier in the day on Bayon Radio said the de facto ruling party was ready to have talks with Funcinpec, but did not mention the Sam Rainsy Party. The statement said political leaders were “incessantly perpetuating an illegal demonstration shamelessly.”
“The CPP party appeals again to the leaders of political parties to stop their hostile acts against the CPP,” the statement said.
Although the attacks were directed toward the Sam Rainsy Party, high-profile Funcinpec members, including President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, have made speeches at the sit-in.
Meanwhile, the municipality on Thursday rejected a new proposal to continue the sit-in. It was rejected on three technicalities, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.
The proposal did not specify when the demonstration would finish, how many people would participate and only had one signature instead of the three required, he said. Now that the proposal has been rejected, the municipality has a duty to enforce the law, Khieu Sopheak said.
However, Prum Sokha, director-general for administration for the ministry, said the opposition could resubmit the proposal.
While the city and Ministry of Interior said the sit-in was illegal, there were signs they seemed willing to accommodate the demonstrators. Municipal officials and police met with opposition members for nearly four hours to discuss security. Puth Chandarith, who represented Funcinpec at the meeting, said the two sides agreed on some points.
The city wants to restrict the sit-in to the northeast corner of the park, which is agreeable for now, but the opposition would like the right to expand, Puth Chandarith said. They also agreed only party-approved motorcycles and cars should be in the park, he said.
“It’s good that the municipality is concerned about security, and wants to cooperate with us,” Puth Chandarith said, adding he believed the police will provide night security as they did Wednesday.
The tent city changed in shape and size Thursday. Sothearos Boulevard was partially unblocked. But traffic was sometimes snarled by onlookers, especially when Sam Rainsy spoke.
Larger and more tents went up with workers erecting temporary structures through the lunch hour. Bamboo gates surrounded two main encampments and “security men” continued to pat down anyone entering.
Banners saying “Down with Hun Sen” jutted out from the main encampment as far as the Regent Park Hotel.
An estimated crowd of 8,000 heard the evening speech in which Sam Rainsy claimed to know the true identity of Khem Khorn, who said Wednesday night on national TV that a Sam Rainsy supporter paid him $1,000 to throw a grenade in the park.
Sam Rainsy stood on a truck with a picture of Khem Khorn in a uniform and said his true name was Pou Makara, whom he claimed was arrested for kidnapping and worked for Mok Chito, the municipal chief of foreign police. “You see the police are becoming thieves, and the thieves are becoming police, that is why we cannot join a coalition government infested with thieves,” Sam Rainsy said.
Down Sothearos Boulevard in the Tonle Bassac squatter camp, residents were unimpressed by the sit-in. The camp is well-known for its pro-CPP sympathies.
A Ministry of Defense bureaucrat in the camp, who asked not to be named, said the opposition does not respect the will of the people. “Right now, we CPP supporters are waiting for the election results on Aug 28, then we will crack down on the demonstrators in the park,” he said.
Security was tight Wednesday night. After party supporters took the informal blockade down, police put up steel roadblocks about 100 meters from either side. Early Thursday, they were not letting anyone in the camp.
Participants on Thursday said they were concerned about the threats, but said they wouldn’t stay home. Sun Da, 40, a former soldier from Kompong Speu province, said he wasn’t afraid of hand grenades because he was used to the sound of explosives from his days in the army.
“If I am killed by a grenade attack ordered by Hun Sen, I’ll die with dignity because I’m demanding democracy in my country,” he said.
Va Ry, 79, said his village chief in Kandal province threatened him when he found out he was coming to the demonstration.
“I don’t think people will throw a grenade…because if they did they would go to hell and they can’t be reincarnated in their next life,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Van Roeun and Saing Soenthrith)
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