The government will stop the Cambodia Watchdog Council, a coalition of unions sympathetic to the opposition party, from protesting election results to prevent a repeat of the violence that occurred after the 1998 election, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Tuesday.
The government will not grant Watchdog Council members permission to demonstrate and will use dogs, tear gas and rubber batons to thwart any unlawful protests, Khieu Sopheak said.
“They want to topple the government that was selected by the election, like [citizens] did in the Philippines and Indonesia,” Khieu Sopheak said. “In order to learn from the bad experience in 1998, the government will not allow any demonstration to support or protest” the election.
Hundreds of students, monks and Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec activists clashed with police during the September 1998 election protests. At least 30 people were left dead or missing and more than 100 were wounded.
Khieu Sopheak said he doubted the Watchdog Council has the force to provoke a mass demonstration equal to the 1998 protests.
The coalition of workers, teachers, students and farmers unions has called for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resignation and promised anti-government demonstrations in the past but has never taken to the streets. Threats made by the pro-CPP Pagoda’s Children Intelligentsia and Students’ Association, known as the Pagoda Boys, have consistently stifled the Council’s calls for anti-government protests.
Representatives of the Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals, the Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Student Movement for Democracy—all Council members—on Tuesday strengthened their pledge to demonstrate despite receiving word that the Pagoda Boys would stop demonstrations undermining national security.
Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals President Men Nath also said Council affiliates would take to the streets even if the Constitutional Council upholds National Election Committee claims of a CPP victory.