A public forum organized by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights in Kompong Speu province was shut down by authorities after participants, who organizers accused of being supporters of the CPP, caused “chaos,” police said on Tuesday.
A group of about 40 people started shouting pro-CPP slogans and pointing aggressively at the panel of speakers leading police to intervene and shut the meeting down on the grounds that they could not guarantee the speakers’ safety, CCHR spokesman Nhem Vanthorn said.
The forum in Kong Pisei district was attended by about 1,000 people and went smoothly until Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Nout Romdul went to speak.
“They [the group] pointed their fingers at him and said they wanted to hit him,” Nhem Vanthorn said.
Local police described the scene as “chaos” and decided to shut the forum down, said Ou Thol, Kong Pisei deputy district police chief.
“We could not stop them. We only had two policemen and there were about 1,000 people attending the forum, so we lost control,” he said. No one was hurt, he added.
“Every time someone brought up [issues regarding] problems in society they started shouting and screaming,” said Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, who was one of the speakers.
According to Nhem Vanthorn, the group first reacted angrily when Nout Romdul claimed that only a few Cambodians were rich while many were poor. Nout Romdul then asked the crowd how many would consider themselves rich. When only the alleged CPP supporters raised their hands, Nout Romdul then asked how many would call themselves poor, and the majority of hands were raised, Nhem Vanthorm said.
Speaking at a pagoda inauguration in June, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that those who participate in forums critical of his government should be “careful.”
The premier did not specify what forums he was referring to but noted that government authorities should not be blamed if such forums could not be protected from an angry public.