Protesters Disrupt Opposition Party Seminar

A Sam Rainsy Party training seminar in Kompong Cham town erupted in violence Monday in what party leaders say was an effort by CPP-hired thugs to in­timidate its supporters.

A group of about a hundred anti-opposition demonstrators hurled rocks at a hotel where party members were training locals on the upcoming commune elections, police officials and party members said.

The protesters tried to ignite tires in front of the building and used megaphones to blast the trainees with insults in an attempt to goad them into coming out onto the street to fight, party leaders said.

“The CPP used the [protesters] as a puppet to destroy our seminar,” said party Director-General Eng Chhay Eang.

But Neang Sean, who led the demonstration, said no political party was behind it.

“We want to show our anger and condemn leaders in the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. “[Party leaders] use us and cheat us into following them.”

Police broke up the protest, confiscating four bottles of gasoline the group was trying to use to ignite tires, Kompong Cham province Military Police Chief Var Sarith said.

“They were going to rush into the hotel, but our armed forces blocked them,” he said.

Second Depu­ty Governor Mao Pirum (CPP) said he had to per­mit the demonstration be­cause otherwise he would be accused of being undemocratic. He added that there is no evidence it was organized by the CPP.

“It is an internal dispute within the Sam Rainsy party,” he said.

Eng Chhay Eang said the violence is part of a broader CPP campaign of intimidation before the communal elections.

A party member in Prey Veng province and another in Kom­pong Cham—each des­cribed by the party as communal election candidates—have been fatally shot in recent weeks.

“If [the protesters] do not like Sam Rainsy, they have a right to …form a new party,” he said. Instead, he said, “they destroy our seminar.”

Three hundred police were deployed to ensure security at Monday’s seminar, which re­sumes today, Var Sarith said.

“My men are on alert about this, however I am worried what [the protesters] will do,” he said.


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