The government will allow the opposition demonstration at the National Assembly to continue because there is no immediate threat to the nation’s security, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday.
“The present situation is different from last year,” the second premier said, referring to the factional fighting in the capital in July 1997. “Then if we did not take action immediately, [Khmer Rouge leader] Ta Mok would have come into Phnom Penh.”
Now, he implied, the situation was more secure and the peaceful demonstrations could take place, with the protection of local authorities.
“What I have to do is provide them security,” he told reporters after meeting with Lakhan Mehrotra Monday, the UN secretary-general’s personal representative, in remarks later rebroadcast on Bayon Radio. “There’s no armed reaction from the government against this demonstration.”
In fact, he continued, the authorities were doing their best to ensure those taking part in the protest were in good health. Hun Sen said he did not want protesters accusing the government of human rights abuses by not providing health-care facilities. But he said the demonstrators should make peace with him, citing the example of former Khmer Rouge soldiers who had now defected to the government.
“I know they curse me a lot,” he said. “Pol Pot used to curse me for 10 years. But those who used to curse me have now come to the government to dine with me.”
The second premier reiterated his threat to continue to govern the country with the previous administration if the opposition parties could not agree to form a new coalition government.
“One party can avoid me, but the other cannot. If they both decide not to work with me, Ung Huot and I will lead the government,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hun Sen implied the CPP would not accept any change to the formula used for working out seat allocation in the new National Assembly. Opposition parties have claimed the formula was changed illegally before the election, resulting in a bigger share of the parliamentary seats for the CPP.
“I want to stress that the CPP and myself will not accept the seats if this allocation seat formula is to be changed after the election,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Constitutional Council rejected an appeal by the opposition to review the formula.
He appealed to the demonstrators to end their protest and go back to their everyday lives.
“Now the rains are here they have to return to cultivating the fields,” Hun Sen said. “I want to appeal to those people who are not politicians…it is better that they should leave the site and find jobs.”