Less than a month after pro-CPP thugs beat opposition lawmakers outside the National Assembly, a mixed force of armed police and military police were deployed outside parliament on Wednesday to enhance security, according to a municipal official.
The decision to strengthen security around parliament was made on Tuesday at the request of Leng Penglong, director general of the National Assembly’s secretariat, in order to protect lawmakers from protesters, said deputy Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng.
“We are worried about the security of lawmakers, so that is why we have to strengthen security for them,” he said, adding that Mr. Penglong expressed particular concern “because people come to protest and shake the fence of the National Assembly in an attempt to destroy the fence.”
Mr. Sreng declined to say how many new officers from the municipal security forces were now permanently stationed at the National Assembly, but said the previous strategy of sending additional forces only in response to protests was ineffective.
“We have not been ignoring security protection at the National Assembly, but sometimes we were too late because there were not [enough] security guards at the National Assembly,” he said.
On October 26, CNRP lawmakers Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were beaten outside the Assembly by a group of men— including three soldiers who have since been arrested—during a protest against deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha.
Keo Phirum, a fellow opposition lawmaker, said on Wednesday that heightened security could be due to the recent escalation of political tension after an arrest warrant was issued last week for CNRP President Sam Rainsy.
“I don’t know the real reason,” he said. “But if it’s really for the security of the lawmakers, then that’s good because we were beaten by gangsters.”
Tep Vanny, an anti-eviction activist from the capital’s Boeng Kak neighborhood who often protests in front of parliament, said she was not happy about the new forces.
“The strengthening of security is the culture of this government because they want to show an image of threats and intimidation in an attempt to suppress the freedom of the people,” Ms. Vanny said.
Mr. Penglong could not be reached.
(Additional reporting by George Wright)