Interior Ministry Says No to Sunday March

Asks Sam Rainsy to Walk on Monday

The Ministry of Interior said Thursday it would not approve Sunday’s opposition march through Phnom Penh because most police have the day off and security cannot be guaranteed.

Instead, the ministry said it would approve the rally for Mon­day, but opposition leader Sam Rainsy vowed to hold the march as planned.

Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday is more appropriate for a rally because police are back on duty that day.

“In principle, we approved them to have the demonstration, but it should be on Aug 24,” he said.

Additional reasons the march was not approved for Sunday, Khieu Sopheak said, were that there is more traffic on city streets Sunday than Monday, and that the official request for demonstration permission did not reach the Interior Ministry until Thursday morning, not providing the ministry enough time to prepare for the march.

The government has the right to ban any demonstration held without permission under article 4 of the Demon­stration Law, he said.

When asked how the government could enforce a ban if the police were not working, Khieu Sopheak said violence would never be used.

“We don’t want to have any violence against demonstrators, because they are our compatriots,” he said.

Sam Rainsy blasted the ministry’s stance, and said the protest against election irregularities would go on as planned.

“The police should work seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” he said Thursday night.

In a separate statement, the party said, “The duty of the security forces is to maintain public order…on any day of the week and in any public place where citizens decide to express their political ideas.”

The government’s denial of permission to march and subsequent vow from Sam Rainsy to continue as planned has been repeated three times this year.

The city told Sam Rainsy he could not hold a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the March 30, 1997, grenade attack in the park across from the National Assembly.

On June 15, the municipality also attempted to ban all political demonstrations through the elections, including a June 21 Sam Rainsy-led march protesting registration irregularities.

Both protests proceeded as planned and without incident.

An Asian diplomat said this opposition pressure is expected.

“Their objective is to ask the Constitutional Council to re­solve all irregularities. As long as they observe the rule of law…it’s just freedom of expression,” he said.

Kong Vibol, an aide to Fun­cinpec president Prince Nor­odom Ranariddh, said the party had not yet decided whether to continue to support the demonstration.

Prince Ranariddh, who was still in Bangkok and scheduled to return sometime this weekend, had not planned on taking part in the march, Kong Vibol said.

Five Sam Rainsy Party trucks blaring messages promoting Sunday’s march wound their way through the capital Thurs­day.

Party workers complained of harassment at one market.

Ros Chankuntheary, representative for women’s affairs in the party, accused security guards at Phsar Chah of kicking them out and seizing their leaflets.

Party member Kim Leang said he was held by market guards for 30 minutes until Sam Rainsy and a human rights worker ar­rived.

The Sunday march is scheduled to begin at 7:30 am at Olympic Stadium and end at about 11 am in front of the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Sam Rainsy was scheduled Thursday night to camp outside the NEC headquarters building, which is located inside the Ministry of Interior, with party members who have been sleeping there to guard ballots.

The party has complained that observers have been locked out of the NEC headquarters since Aug 11, while NEC workers, who they say are dominated by the CPP, have been allowed inside.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith, Touch Rotha and Mhari Saito)



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