The Phnom Penh Municipality on Wednesday refused to approve a three-day mass protest by the opposition CNRP scheduled to take place at Freedom Park from Sunday to Tuesday, City Hall said.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that the municipality does not have the authority to approve the CNRP’s request to hold another demonstration, during which 5,000 people are scheduled to camp out for three nights and an additional 20,000 protesters would occupy the park from morning until noon.
“After we had a serious discussion with CNRP representatives, we found the decision too difficult to make because we couldn’t solve some controversial issues,” Mr. Dimanche said. “They want to have 5,000 people putting up tents every night which we didn’t agree to.”
The CNRP submitted a letter on Tuesday addressed to Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong asking City Hall to approve the protest, which is to demand the creation of a committee to investigate election irregularities.
“We have the honor to inform His Excellency that the CNRP will organize a nonviolent mass demonstration for the general public to express their will and to demand the formation of a special independent committee to investigate the facts of the July 28 election results,” the letter says.
It adds that documentary films will be shown at the protest, songs and yoga will be performed, and protesters will be invited to express their opinions.
Mr. Dimanche, however, emphasized that the demonstration must be approved by the Interior Ministry, and not by City Hall.
“This is outside City Hall’s authority, and [the CNRP] must ask permission from the Interior Ministry,” he said. “Based on the demonstration law, they can hold a peaceful demonstration from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. only.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that he was not aware of the discussion between opposition representatives and City Hall regarding the protest.
“The ministry doesn’t know anything so far,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that his party doesn’t care whether or not City Hall or the Interior Ministry had approved the three-day demonstration.
“Just let them do their job. We didn’t ask them for permission, we just gave them notice to ask for security protection,” Mr. Sovann said, adding that the CNRP will stick to its plan.
“Regardless of whether or not we have permission, we’ll still do it,” he said. “We have strategies to control the crowd.”
Separately, Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Wednesday issued a statement thanking CNRP supporters for maintaining peace at the demonstration held on Saturday, which attracted some 20,000 people.
“The permanent security committee for the election would like to also thank the people taking part in the peaceful demonstration based on legal grounds, which allowed authorities to successfully fulfill their duties, sharing a significant part in maintaining public order,” Mr. Kheng said before also thanking the armed forces for protecting the crowd.