Interior Ministry Bans CNRP’s Freedom Park ‘People’s Congress’

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday banned the “people’s congress,” a rally the opposition CNRP plans to hold Sunday in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park.

The ban comes one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned the opposition party to “pull back” from plans to stage another mass demonstration. He said it risked going beyond the limits of the law, violating a City Hall ban on the Freedom Park event.

“Regarding the people’s congress in Freedom Park by the CNRP, the Ministry of Interior has decided that the competent authorities investigating the violence that caused damage [to public property] haven’t yet completed their investigation,” the ban said, referring to Phnom Penh’s last major protests, in January.

“To avoid chaos that could happen from a number of opportunists, the Ministry of Interior will not allow the CNRP to celebrate the ‘people’s congress’ at Freedom Park or any public places,” says the statement, which was signed by Mr. Kheng and  posted on the ministry website on Friday.

“The CNRP can celebrate at their own office or private places and has to cooperate with the Phnom Penh authorities in order to protect security and public order,” it adds.

One of three committees established to assess damage caused by garment factory strikes blames the CNRP and a trio of union leaders for $275,688 worth of damage.

In a separate notice released Friday, the ministry agreed with CNRP plans to hold a ceremony in memory of those who died in a grenade attack on an opposition rally on March 30, 1997.

“Participants cannot exceed 700 people,” it says, “and make sure that after the ceremony they need to break up, not gather or march to any other place.”

In a statement released Friday, the CNRP said it expects 5,000 people to attend the congress in Freedom Park.

“Yes, for sure we will go ahead and hold it,” Mu Sochua, the party’s head of public affairs, said Friday. Referring to police action against protesters, she said: “It’s a concern, but it should not deter us from exercising our human and constitutional rights.”

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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