With the opposition CNRP expecting at least 10,000 people to turn out for a rally in Phnom Penh on Monday, a military police official said Thursday that any attempt to disturb the peace would not be tolerated.
Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said that forces would be deployed to Freedom Park on Monday to provide security to people at the rally, and restore order should things get out of hand.
“We will probably pay extra attention to Freedom Park on [Monday] by deploying forces near Freedom Park,” he said. “We have our forces everywhere to facilitate public order and security and when any violence occurs, we will crack down immediately.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that the CNRP had informed the municipality that the planned rally would include 10,000 people. Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong has invited opposition party leaders for a meeting this morning to discuss the rally, he added.
Mr. Socheatvong said that as long as the rally was legally permissible, City Hall would allow it to go ahead.
“If they have permission according to the law, we have the duty to facilitate it for them,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the CNRP would employ its own volunteer security guards to help direct traffic and organize parking for the rally, but said he was not concerned about opposition supporters becoming violent or acting illegally during the gathering.
“They [CNRP supporters] are students, they are well educated, they know how to behave. They are from the companies, from civil society, from the government also. They are very disciplined,” he said.
“If anything happens, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior,” he added.
In a speech on August 8, Interior Minister Sar Kheng warned that should political demonstrations turn violent, the leaders of the protest would be held to account according to the law.
Mr. Sovann said that individuals who act illegally during the rally should not be linked to the party.
“Anyone who wants to do something against the law has to be responsible for themselves. We are not gangsters. We are the political leaders who have been elected by 3 million people to represent the country,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)