Phnom Penh Vigil Held for Burma Demonstrators

Around 150 foreign nationals and Cambodians gathered outside the Burmese Embassy in Phnom Penh Sept 28 to protest against the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in Rangoon by Burma’s military rulers.

Speaking at the vigil on Noro­dom Boulevard, where the em­bas­sy is located, SRP President Sam Rainsy called on Asean to expel Burma from membership of the regional organization.

“I would like to appeal to all country members of Asean to stop Burmese membership in Asean,” he said.

Around 20 police and military police took up positions outside the embassy, while another 20 officers deployed on Street 63 at the back of the diplomatic compound.

In response to the vigil, the em­bassy ceased work and locked its doors on Sept 28 afternoon. Calls to the embassy’s telephones were un­answered and a security guard at the gate told a visitor to return on Mon­day.

The Cambodia Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 23 local rights groups, which coordinated the vigil, issued a statement condemning the use of violence against protesters.

“The brutal activities of Burma’s military government have seriously violated the rights of humanity and are also an act that people around the world cannot forgive,” the CHRAC statement said.

The Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh also issued a statement Sept 28 calling on Burma to exercise restraint “to ensure the situation there [is] free from further escalation and complication.”

“Myanmar’s stability should not be affected, neither should peace and stability in the region,” the statement said.

Beijing has been a long-time supporter of the military junta in Burma.

Asean’s foreign ministers re­leased a statement noting that they had expressed their “revulsion” to Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

“[The ministers] were appalled to receive reports of automatic weap­ons being used and demanded that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators,” they said in the statement, using Burma’s official name.

Cambodia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Nam Hong is meeting with fellow Asean foreign ministers, and the government might is­sue a further statement on the situation in Burma following that meeting, government spokesman and Informa­tion Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

“We hope that the Burmese government [can] resolve it peacefully through dialogue,” Khieu Kanha­rith said.

However, fellow CPP member Nguon Nhel, first vice president of the National Assembly, said that Cambodia should not interfere in Burma’s domestic affairs.

“[Burma] has its own law, so with activities that cause public disorder and damage social security they must crack down according to their existing laws,” Nguon Nhel said.

He also compared the protests, which have seen Burmese security forces kill at least nine people and arrest hundreds more, to France’s employment-related protests in March last year.

Asked to comment on the violence being meted out to Burma’s Buddhist clergy, Cambodia’s Su­preme Buddhist Patriarch Nuon Ngeth declined to comment on Sept 28.

  (Additional reporting by John Maloy)

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