Phnom Penh Campaign Restrictions Requested

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong has requested that political campaigning be banned on the majority of the capital’s major streets and popular parks, according to a letter sent to the Ministry of Interior last week.

If implemented, the list of locations where Mr. Socheatvong suggests that Interior Minister Sar Kheng should prohibit election campaigning would effectively restrict political parties from spreading their message in any of the central areas where residents congregate.

Among the streets on which a ban is proposed are central sections of Norodom, Monivong, Mao Tse Tung, Suramarith, Sihanouk and Sothearos boulevards as well as stretches of Street 182, all of Russian Boulevard and streets around the Royal Palace.

Mr. Socheatvong’s proposition also included a campaigning ban in and around Central Market, O’Russei Market, Olympic Market, Tuol Tumpoung Market, Depot Market and Damko Market. It also asks for the gardens around the Royal Palace, Veal Mean park in front of the National Museum, the park across from Wat Botum, the gardens across from the U.S. Embassy and surrounding Wat Phnom, the park across from the Cambodiana Hotel and NagaWorld casino as well as Hun Sen park along Sihanouk Boulevard be off limits to political parties.

The letter, dated Thursday, says that the restrictions during the official campaign period between June 27 and July 27 are necessary “to ensure security, safety and public order for all political parties and to avoid traffic jams which disturb passengers traveling as national and international tourists.”

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said Sunday that he had not seen the letter from City Hall, but opposes bans that would inhibit the ability of political parties to inform voters of their election platform.

“We object to the banning of [main] streets during the election campaign because anywhere people live, political parties have to be able to bring political messages to those areas,” Mr. Sovann said.

“I will check Phnom Penh City Hall’s request to see whether it goes against the Constitution or democratic policy,” he added.

Mr. Socheatvong declined to comment further on the letter, saying that he was waiting to receive the Interior Ministry’s reply to his request.

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