Vows to Continue Election Vigils
Fearing violence against protesters, Sam Rainsy on Monday called for soldiers and police serving the government to point their guns at “the leader of national traitors” if they are ordered to shoot civilians.
The speech delivered to some 1,000 supporters in front of the National Assembly was perhaps his most vitriolic attack against Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Don’t go to crack down on your own people, these are your mothers, brothers and fathers. Don’t shoot your own people, [instead] turn your gun point to shoot the leader of national traitors,” Sam Rainsy said at about 5:30 pm.
The speech came as the opposition pledged to maintain a 24-hour vigil in front of the National Assembly until their complaints about election irregularities are heard.
“If troops are ordered against peaceful civilians, I appeal to government armed forces, the forces of [National Assembly President] Chea Sim, the forces of [Interior co-Minister] Sar Kheng and all soldiers, and those compatriots from the border, to rise up together and turn your gun point to get Hun Sen to step down from his position,” he said, referring to CPP leaders perceived as moderates.
The crowd responded with chants of “Crush, crush Hun Sen.”
A senior government spokesman said Monday night that the law would not allow the military or police to shoot at peaceful demonstrators.
“My forecast is that we will not have any Tiananmen Squares,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “But I’m worried about violence by supporters of other parties.’’
Sam Rainsy also launched a scathing attack on National Police Director-General Hok Lundy.
“If Hok Lundy forces you to go to war, please turn your gun point at them,” Sam Rainsy said.
“Hok Lundy is a yuon lackey. Brother, stay with our Cambodian people, they will look after you. Don’t work for Hun Sen. Don’t work for Hok Lundy to destroy Cambodia.”
Shortly after the speech, Sam Rainsy led a march around the park with supporters chanting slogans and waving signs. Representatives from at least four parties attended. Some stopped at the monument dedicated to the Vietnamese liberation of Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge and pelted the stone-faced soldier statues with sugarcane chunks and rubber sandals.
Earlier, Sam Rainsy appealed for citizens to bring food, water and equipment for volunteers willing to camp out in the park where the deadly March 30, 1997 grenade attack killed 18, and wounded scores of others.
“The sit-in formula is a very good one, it’s an innovation in Cambodia, I think it will help our cause,” Sam Rainsy told supporters after speaking to hundreds gathered earlier in the day. “If [the Ministry of Interior] wants this protest to stop, they should deal with our complaints.”
An adviser to Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Commerce Secretary of State Lu Laysreng, in a late morning speech called for the military to stay neutral.
“Before you pull the trigger on your rifle against someone, you have to think it over because we are Khmer. Take your rifles to protect the border from being invaded by [the Vietnamese],” he said.
“We must sit here until the King understands our position,” Lu Laysreng added.
Sam Rainsy pledged to spend the night in the park. He spent the afternoon collecting donations from supporters.
The camp out comes after Thursday’s grenade and bullet attack in front of the Ministry of Interior where Rainsy attempted to spend the night outside the NEC building housing ballot bags. The attack left one news service driver dead.
By late afternoon, the atmosphere was festive. Supporters wore scraps of yellow ribbons as headbands, a color symbolizing, Buddhism and non-violence, according to Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian-elect, Son Chhay.
Vendors did steady business selling snacks and cold drinks and blue tarps were strung up in preparation for the camp out. A steady stream of supporters came up to Sam Rainsy to contribute clumps of riel. Others were invited to take the microphone and denounce the CPP and elections in a sort of political speech karaoke.
By late afternoon, a Sam Rainsy Party spokesman said about $1,400 had been collected and was being used to buy tarps.
A citywide march on Monday, although approved by the Ministry of Interior, was canceled Sunday night for security and logistical reasons.
Son Chhay said the opposition was alarmed by a fake leaflet on the Sam Rainsy Party letterhead being circulated Sunday around the capital. It called on party officials to encourage looting during the march as payment for supporter’s participation.
“Please be patient if there is an eventual explosion,” the leaflet said. “If that happens, please explain the case by blaming the CPP, because it’s our strategy to profit from that event.”
Rainsy denied that the weekend of intimidation from CPP supporters had succeeded in stopping the citywide march.
“I avoid the march because I don’t want to take any risk for any incident to happen. I don’t want to expose the lives of my supporters,” he said.
Son Chhay said the march was also called off to give the NEC and Constitutional Council time to consider their demands. A Funcinpec-Sam Rainsy Party joint statement on Sunday threatened more demonstrations if their complaints are not heard by Saturday, the date the official results are expected to be released.
After opposition supporters gathered Monday at 7:30 am on the steps of Olympic Stadium expecting to march, Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec politicians made speeches to the assembled crowd of about 3,000 for two hours.
Supporters who arrived Monday morning expressed disappointment that they would not be marching.
Sun Thy, 69, said she would have come under any circumstances.
“I’m sorry there’s no big march on the streets because I want to show my anger so Mr International Community can help,” she said.
But opposition supporters, led by representatives of the little-known National Rebuilding Party, did march down Sihanouk Boulevard on their way to establish the sit-in. After arriving, they blocked off the Sothearos Boulevard in front of the Assembly with cyclos and their bodies.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the street was blocked Monday with the approval of police, and hoped it could be cordoned off in the future.
“The plan to have this [sit-in] all day and all night is very dangerous,” he said, adding that the opposition had approval for demonstrations on Monday, but the Ministry had received no proposal beyond then.
“Monday is legal, after that, it’s illegal,” Khieu Sopheak said.
Son Chhay said the opposition hadn’t sought approval from the municipality or the Ministry of Interior.
“This is a public place. We don’t need permission to gather in a public place,” he said.
By early evening, a thunderstorm rained on Sam Rainsy’s parade.
Many returned home, but about 200 stayed and huddled under blue tarps to escape the downpour.
(Additional reporting by Khuy Sokhoeun)
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