Hun Sen Orders Tight Sit-In Security

By Kay Johnson

and Pin Sisovann

the cambodia daily

A massive opposition sit-in settled into an uncertain calm on its fifth day Friday as word came that Second Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered security for the demonstration.

The sit-in at the park across from the National Assembly maintained its peak of 8,000-10,000 people Friday afternoon, matching the previous day’s late-afternoon numbers. The Sam Rainsy Party claimed that 40,000 had attended Thursday’s rally, but independent observers said that number was inflated.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Hun Sen ordered security for the park Thursday afternoon in a meeting at the Defense Ministry attended by officials from the Phnom Penh Municipality, as well as the na­tional and municipal police forces.

“Hun Sen made strict orders that 100 security persons must be provided to the demonstrators. No soldiers must be around, only police. The presence of soldiers in the area might be accused of threatening this demonstration,” Khieu Kanharith said.

“He says 100-percent security must be provided to the demonstrators,” the spokesman said. “He says that if something happens, we will be blamed.”

Hun Sen’s advisers could not be reached to confirm the order, which Khieu Kanharith reported a day after the Council of Min­isters issued a statement against the rally that hinted opposition figure Sam Rainsy might be ar­rested if there was any trouble.

Several observers and organizers said they still feared some kind of violence over the weekend at the rally, which is protesting election results as fraudulent.

“We get rumors almost every hour. We all pray nothing is go­ing to happen, but who knows?” said Puth Chandarith, a Fun­cinpec official organizing security at the makeshift camp across from the Assembly.

Sam Rainsy Party steering com­mittee member Tioulong Saumura cautiously welcomed news of Hun Sen’s order.

“If Hun Sen has understood that the people have the right to peacefully express their will and demonstrate, then it is good for democracy in Cambodia,” said Tioulong Saumura, the wife of Sam Rainsy. “I hope they are true words and that for once his deeds will match his words.”

Sam Rainsy told a crowd outside the Assembly on Friday that he expected to be arrested. “Maybe tonight, Sam Rainsy will be arrested. Sam Rainsy has prepared toothpaste, brush and some other things already to go along with them,” he said.

“If they arrest Sam Rainsy tonight, please don’t retreat…. Please come to sit in here every day and not allow the sit-in to be moved until we have success.”

By late afternoon Friday, a festival atmosphere prevailed at the sit-in, with people walking around or sitting under scores of tents, vendors doing brisk business selling food and drink and supporters smiling and cheering at anti-Hun Sen speeches and slogans.

Most of the slogans, poems and songs read over the loudspeaker called for Hun Sen to step down: “Hun Sen, your stepping down is not a disgrace, but a nationalist dignity because you are a yuon puppet.”

“Do not form a coalition with one who has a yuon head and a Khmer body,” went another.

One more said, “Hun Sen and [NEC Chair­man] Chheng Phon can steal the people’s votes, but not the people’s will.”

The sit-in began Monday and has proceeded amid the threat that the government would shut it down, as well as the fear of a gre­nade attack or clashes with counter-demonstrators.

Municipal First Deputy Gov­ernor Chea Sophara said Friday he had rejected an application for a counter-demonstration. “If we allow this, I am 100-percent sure that the two demonstrations would clash,” he said.

“If the two clashed, the counter-demonstrators would crack down on the opposition demonstrators within 15 minutes because these people are not all demonstrators with ideals. Some are beggars, some come for food,” he said.

Interior Minister official Prum Sokha said he knew of no plans to crack down on the rally. “No one benefits from violence and trouble. We want to keep the pub­lic order,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)

 

 

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