PM Says He Won’t Impede Anti-Rainsy Protest

Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he would not intervene to stop a student demonstration against opposition party leader Sam Rainsy but requested that the protest be nonviolent.

“My only request is that there is no violence, no stabbing or fighting each other,” Hun Sen said of the planned student demonstration during a visit to Kompong Speu province on Friday.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, who in the past has declined requests by the opposition, labor groups, students and others to stage peaceful protests, last week asked that the Interior Ministry grant the anti-Sam Rainsy students permission to demonstrate.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Koul Panha, director of Com­mittee for Free and Fair Elections, said that he supported the right of the anti-opposition party students to demonstrate but argued that the same rights should be extended to groups that want to protest against the government.

“People have the right to demonstrate,” he said. “But the government should not discriminate about who can use that right.”

A Sam Rainsy Party official said Sunday there were no plans to hold a counter demonstration, explaining that the opposition was not likely to receive a permit and that it feared violence if it were to hold a protest.

“There are so many opportunities for the thugs to turn a nonviolent demonstration into a violent one,” said party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang when asked why the opposition didn’t have plans to hold its own rally.

Ung Bun-Ang also said Sunday that Sam Rainsy would “probably” return in early October.

Sam Rainsy said Sunday that surprise would be the key in his return.

“For any battle the venue and the time must not be imposed on you,” Sam Rainsy wrote in an e-mail. “Surprise may be a critical factor.”

Sam Rainsy also wrote that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if a large, spontaneous rally of SRP supporters—and especially students—happened on the day of his return.

“Phnom Penh is an opposition stronghold,” he wrote. “Moreover, young people in general and students in particular are in their vast majority in favor of the democratic change advocated by the opposition party.”


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