Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong on Thursday rebuked opposition CNRP president Sam Rainsy for allegedly breaking his promise to keep Monday’s CNRP rally at Freedom Park to 6,000 people and bar the participation of supporters from outside of the city.
Well over 10,000 CNRP supporters attended the rally, at which Mr. Rainsy called for nationwide protests by September 8 unless the government agreed to an independent investigation of last month’s national election, which both the CNRP and ruling CPP claim to have won. Although the crowd swelled well past the 6,000 limit the government had asked for, the event remained orderly and peaceful.
Even so, Mr. Socheatvong sought to chastise Mr. Rainsy for allegedly breaking their arrangement.
“In fact the people from the provinces also participated and the number of participants exceeded the limit until reaching almost 20,000 people,” he said in a letter to Mr. Rainsy, which was posted to the city’s website.
“This shows that the CNRP has the ability to stage a rally with members but does not have the management ability to limit participation. This causes people to be worried about accidents that could occur when they have a rally next time, which could seriously affect security, public order and social safety.
“Accordingly, I request the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Sam Rainsy, to pay attention to all their activities and the next time they have a gathering to follow the demonstration law.”
The letter follows repeated warnings from top government officials that any violence that results from the CNRP’s pending protests would be the opposition’s fault and lead to the prosecution of its leaders. The opposition in turn has raised concerns that the CPP may try to place spies among the protesters expressly to stir up violence and blame in on the CNRP.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said the limits the government sought to place on Monday’s rally were unacceptable.
“This is the people’s will, so we cannot prevent them from participating. Rather, the opposition welcomes them,” she said. “Limiting the people’s participation is pressure on the freedom of the people, so the Cambodia National Rescue Party cannot accept it.”