More than 1,000 students, motorbike and automobile taxi drivers and local residents will stage a march in Phnom Penh on June 1 to demand that the government lower the price of gasoline, student leaders warned Tuesday.
The Students Movement for Democracy sent a letter to Phnom Penh municipality on Monday, seeking permission for a nonviolent demonstration that will begin in front of the National Assembly and continue to the Royal University of Phnom Penh, acting President Nounhem Prum Virak said.
On Tuesday evening, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said he had not seen the letter, but would deny the request.
“I will not issue permission for them to hold a demonstration because a demonstration will not reduce gas prices, but it would cause turmoil in our society, especially since our country is in crisis,” Kep Chuktema said.
But Nounhem Prum Virak, said the student group will carry on with the demonstration even if it doesn’t receive permission.
“We will hold our strike even though the municipality refused to issue permission,” he said.
A statement released from the group Tuesday called on the government to lower the price of petrol to $0.38 per liter, to reduce the value-added tax and increase efforts to curb gasoline smuggling. Currently, 1 liter of gasoline costs about $0.71 in Phnom Penh, nearly double the price paid in Vietnam and Thailand.
Students Movement for Democracy members spent Tuesday distributing fliers about the protest to students and taxi drivers, many of whom said they were undeterred by the municipality’s ban.
“We have the right to gather peacefully and speak out freely…. I think that the price of gasoline will increase more if we do nothing against it,” said Suon Soth, 29, who drives a taxi between Phnom Penh and Battambang.
He said he refills his tank only in Battambang, where smuggled gasoline from Thailand can be purchased for as little as $0.35 per liter.