In a busy political weekend, the Sam Rainsy Party’s annual congress in Siem Reap was disrupted by protesters, but party members also heard its political message broadcast on a pirate radio station.
In Phnom Penh, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party held its biannual central committee meeting, thanking the legislature for passing the draft law to try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge.
At both party meetings, Sam Rainsy Party and CPP members issued calls for free and fair commune elections, tentatively scheduled for 2002.
Sam Rainsy Party members, whose congress was held Saturday and Sunday, said they will take part in the commune elections only if they are “free and fair,” and if independent election monitoring groups don’t boycott them.
Sam Rainsy Party members also urged international donors to push harder for results, noting that most Cambodians remain poor despite massive foreign aid.
About 300 protesters disrupted the Sam Rainsy Party proceedings Saturday, claiming to be disgruntled former party members. Sam Rainsy said the CPP was behind the protest. Confusion marked a smaller protest Sunday at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in Phnom Penh. While protest leaders said the group of 80 was from Prey Veng province, several protesters said they were city police officers and workers.
One man said he came from Prey Veng thinking he was being paid to demonstrate in support of the Sam Rainsy Party, only to learn he was supposed to oppose it.
A highlight of the Sam Rainsy Party congress was Saturday’s test broadcast of “The Voice of Justice” radio program. The party, repeatedly denied a radio license, has begun unauthorized broadcasts from an undisclosed location.
At the CPP meeting on Saturday, party heavyweights thanked the legislature for passing the Khmer Rouge and commune election laws that “responded to the expectations of the population as well as the international community.” Those laws will “strengthen the rule of law,” democracy, and economic development, CPP members said.
The CPP also urged all parties to approach the commune elections in a neutral, democratic and orderly manner.