Four SRP village chiefs in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet commune were sworn in Monday morning, despite a heavy police presence and protests, SRP officials said.
SRP officials claimed that pro-CPP protesters tried to disrupt the ceremony by using loudspeakers, banging on buckets and cutting power to the commune office, making it impossible to use a microphone.
The ceremony was organized by the Poipet commune council, which is headed by an SRP official, to inaugurate 11 village chiefs from the SRP, CPP and Funcinpec who were elected June 21. The 11 had not been sworn in previously due to an ongoing investigation by the Interior Ministry into election irregularities alleged by CPP Provincial Governor On Sum.
However, only the four SRP village chiefs were sworn in as the Funcinpec and CPP officials did not show up for the ceremony that was attended by about 100 SRP supporters.
SRP Commune Chief Hay Nam Heng said that the commune office was surrounded by some 200 pro-CPP protesters and about 50 police officers.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy, who attended the ceremony, said that about a dozen of the officers were armed with assault rifles “as if they were preparing for a military operation.” Sam Rainsy claimed that about 20 protesters entered the office and heckled when the ceremony began. He said his bodyguards forcibly removed the group from the building. Sam Rainsy also said the ceremony had to be cut short due to safety concerns.
Governor On Sum said 200 protesters gathered outside the office of their own accord because “they know what is right and what is wrong.”
Provincial Police Chief Chhoeung Sokhom said that he deployed 20 officers, four of them armed, to the ceremony. He confirmed there was a scuffle between protesters and Sam Rainsy’s bodyguards, but that the police did not get involved.
Interior Ministry General Department Director Sak Setha said that the ministry would not recognize anyone sworn in at the ceremony.