Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong and municipal police chief Chuon Sovann hosted a ceremony at Olympic Stadium on Wednesday to award about $25 to each of the city’s police for keeping order in the year following last July’s disputed national election.
About 2,000 police officers filed into the stadium around 8 a.m. and lined up in their units around massive crowd control vehicles that have blocked access to Freedom Park since the government repressed opposition protests in January.
Before doling out the money, Mr. Sovann, who has personally directed recent protest suppression operations, delivered a speech congratulating the police for ensuring order during the past year.
“We have seen the activities of the CNRP, civil society and some unions with a contrarian tendency incite and pull the attention of their members and workers, and the people, to rally and hold demonstrations more than 445 times—sometimes causing violence.”
He said there had been 289 labor strikes in the same period.
Mr. Sovann said that 86 of the protests had been triggered by the CNRP and that one particular protest of striking workers at the start of the year, which the government brutally repressed, ending months of public demonstrations, had caused more than $72 million in damages.
In March, a government committee charged with assessing damage from the protests put the estimate at about $275,000.
“On January 2 and 3, the CNRP with the unions incited and encouraged demonstrating by providing materials and money to demand a minimum wage of $160 per month and some protesters caused anarchy, destroying and burning public and private property,” Mr. Sovann said.
During the repression of the strike on Pur Senchey district’s Veng Sreng Street, which was not led by the CNRP but was part of a nationwide strike of garment workers encouraged by the party, military police wielding AK-47s shot dead at least five workers.
The government then violently cleared the CNRP’s two-week long demonstration based in Freedom Park and closed down the plaza with barbed wire and armed police.
It led to months of small, symbolic protests by the party to allow access to the park, during which district security guards brutally beat protesters, until opposition protesters on July 15 viciously fought back.
“The CNRP held illegal demonstration and anarchy to flock into Freedom Park under the slogan ‘Release the Freedom Park’ by using a brutal violent attack on the Daun Penh security guards,” the municipal police chief explained.
Police stationed at the park arrested seven CNRP lawmakers leading the protest and a senior party official.
“In response to the anarchic activities, the authorities have implemented their roles perfectly,” Mr. Socheatvong told the officers Wednesday.
During the speeches delivered by Mr. Sovann and Mr. Socheatvong, which lasted almost half an hour, officers were quiet and appeared fatigued.
However, cheers broke out around the stadium when Mr. Sovann announced that Prime Minister Hun Sen had provided 100,000 riel, about $25, to be given to each police officer.
With their money in hand, the police filed out of the stadium at about 9 a.m.