The HRP on Monday lashed out at the Phnom Penh municipal authority for granting permission for Sunday’s SRP-led demonstration despite twice denying the HRP the right to hold a public forum.
“The government is discriminating against the HRP…and the HRP cannot accept it,” the party said in a Monday statement. “What is the secret [deal] between the SRP and the government enabling permission for the SRP to demonstrate?”
HRP Deputy President Keo Remy said Monday that his party does not begrudge the SRP for holding the demonstration, but wanted to see parity in how City Hall treats political parties.
“The city didn’t treat political parties equally and violated the law on political parties,” he said.
Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said that there was nothing secretive about City Hall’s decision to allow Sunday’s rally.
“We allowed the SRP protest because [SRP President] Sam Rainsy agreed to a compromise by changing from a marching demonstration to a sit-in protest,” he said.
Pa Socheatvong added that the HRP had been denied permission for their proposed forum on gasoline prices because they were seeking to host 10,000 people but presented “no clear plan or responsibility.”
“We don’t discriminate against the HRP or show bias towards the SRP,” he added. “Everyone knows about the clashes between the SRP and the city.”
Keo Remy claimed that the municipality had never discussed the forum with the HRP and just rejected it outright citing one excuse or another.
Sam Rainsy said Monday that he was “not interested” in discussing the HRP’s claims of secret dealings with the municipality.
He did reiterate claims he made at Sunday’s rally that the compromise with City Hall was actually turned against the SRP in violation of the agreement. He added that the permission for the rally was granted as a way to hem the demonstration in while police blocked people from attending—an allegation police have denied.
“I will no longer believe the city’s and Interior [Ministry’s] promises,” Sam Rainsy said. “Next time I will march.”
The crowd at Sunday’s rally was far smaller than the SRP had predicted, and was also made up almost entirely of men, suggesting a lack of participation by garment factory workers, which had previously been a key element of SRP support.
Chea Mony, president of the SRP-aligned Free Trade Union, was not among those who attended Sunday’s demonstration. He said by telephone Monday that he supported the rally’s anti-inflation message, but he missed the event because of a mishap related to the moving of four tons of documents to the FTU’s main office.
“I was very busy with my wet documents, which got wet due to the rain on Saturday night,” he said, adding that he had to handle the issue on his own.
“I knew that the demonstration could be done without me,” he added.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, which includes the FTU, said that he did attend Sunday’s event as an observer, but added that the union did not spread word of the event to its tens of thousands of garment worker and teacher members.
“I have neither the power to call on my union’s members to join any party demonstration, nor prevent my members from joining a party’s demonstration,” he said.
He added that his union wanted to remain neutral, particularly after receiving a number of complaints from the international community concerning Cambodian unions’ ties to political parties.