CNRP lawmakers will this morning push forward with plans to deliver letters to the embassies of signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements informing them about the deteriorating political climate, they said on Sunday, despite the event being banned.
The opposition on Friday announced the plans for a number of its lawmakers to travel in cars to deliver the letters to diplomatic missions around Phnom Penh, but City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said on Sunday that they did not give adequate notice.
“We rejected their request because it is against legal procedures for demonstrations,” Mr. Chanyada said. “They have to give notice three days before for us to meet them for discussions to ensure public order and traffic.”
He said that there would be legal consequences for the CNRP if it went ahead with the plan.
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh put out a security warning for its citizens on Sunday over what it said were planned “demonstrations” by the CNRP.
“U.S. citizens are reminded of the Embassy’s existing guidance that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and have the potential to escalate into violence without warning,” said a message on Sunday night.
However, CNRP officials said they would not back down from the plans.
“We are just going in 15 cars,” said Mu Sochua, the CNRP’s head of public affairs, adding: “People will surely follow us, either by foot or moto, we don’t know.”
She said that given the government’s warnings against the event, the U.S. Embassy was right to put out the warning.
Lawmaker Son Chhay said there was nothing illegal about lawmakers traveling in a group of cars to deliver letters to embassies.
“We think that submitting letters is not against the law, so some of our lawmakers will bring letters to submit at the embassies,” Mr. Chhay said.
Another lawmaker, Eng Chhay Eang, explained that the letters would simply inform the signatories of the agreement, which ended the civil war and promised democracy, that all was not well.
“The meaning of the petition is to inform the signatory countries to make them know clearly that Cambodia now is walking away from the spirit of the Paris Peace Agreements and Cambodia’s Constitution, especially when it comes to democracy,” he said.
Mr. Chhay Eang pointed to the large number of arrests of CNRP officials and prominent rights activists, and the sidelining of opposition leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy as the June 2017 commune elections approach.
Mr. Sokha is presently holed up in the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh to avoid arrest for not turning up for questioning in his alleged mistress’s “prostitution” case in May, and is scheduled to be put on trial for the offense on Friday. Mr. Rainsy has been living in Paris since November to avoid being imprisoned for a years-old defamation conviction.
National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said he did not know what authorities would do if the CNRP pushed ahead with the plans for the deliveries. Neither Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Sovann nor National Police spokesman Kirth Chantarith could not be reached.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said that the CNRP’s appeal to the embassies was two decades out of date, and that the various legal cases facing opposition leaders were not political in nature.
“Signatory countries to the Paris Peace Agreement ended their mission when Cambodia had elections in 1993,” Mr. Eysan said. “How could the signatory countries intervene for Sam Rainsy?”
“Sam Rainsy can return to Cambodia tomorrow if he has the money to buy a plane ticket, because he is self-exiled,” he added. “No one kicked him out.”