Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium will be the location on Tuesday of a mass rally designed to show support for King Norodom Sihamoni’s call on the CNRP to attend the inaugural session of parliament on Monday, which the CNRP has said it will boycott in protest over national election irregularities.
A senior member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP, which claimed a victory in the disputed election and intends to form a new government on Monday, denied any links between the ruling party and the stadium rally.
Popular ABC FM Radio, whose owner, Seng Bunveng, is a supporter of the CPP, is organizing the rally and promoting it both as a charitable event and a public statement of support for King Sihamoni’s decision to convene parliament on Monday despite the opposition’s boycott threat.
Prior to the vote in July, Mr. Bunveng used his station on at least two occasions to warn his listeners that blood would “flow through the streets” if the opposition CNRP won the election, insisting that the military would weigh in on behalf of Mr. Hun Sen should the CPP lose.
Mr. Bunveng eventually desisted from his message of post-electoral slaughter when the National Election Committee was pressed to intervene, writing an official letter demanding that he stop such broadcasts.
According to an ABC broadcast on Thursday and Friday, the mass rally is to “express our love to the highly respected King and support the King’s decision” to call on elected lawmakers to attend the first session of parliament on Monday.
“We will gather to support the King’s idea,” an ABC presenter said in one of a series of repeated calls by the station for people to attend the mass rally.
The CNRP has twice written officially to King Sihamoni stating that its 55 lawmakers-elect will not attend Monday’s inaugural session unless Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP concedes to demands made during two-days of negotiations last week to end the political impasse.
ABC has also called on members of the public who love the King to place a Cambodian flag outside their houses starting from Saturday.
Coupled with its show of support for the King’s decision, ABC also said the rally was aimed at collecting funds for the benefit of the Kantha Bopha hospitals, which have a long history of support from the royal family.
However, the hospitals’ founder, Dr. Beat Richner, said on Friday that his staff were told nothing of the political angle of the rally when approached by a woman from ABC Radio on Thursday, who said that a concert would be held to support the hospitals, which rely heavily on donations.
However, after reading in a local newspaper of the rally’s political intentions, Dr. Richner said he informed ABC that he did not want to have “anything to do with this concert.”
“We are beyond politics, we have nothing to do with politics,” Dr. Richner said by telephone.
“This makes me angry, because we are beyond politics. We are saving the lives of children…human acts cannot be abused for politics, especially in our situation, because we depend on donations.”
And if the rally also raises funds for the hospitals, Dr. Richner said: “I don’t reject donations…but we don’t want to be involved in a political manifestation.”
ABC radio owner Mr. Bunveng could not be reached for comment.
Phang Socheata, the ABC radio representative who approached the hospital on Thursday with news of the rally, insisted on Friday that the event is nonpartisan and that $10,000 had already been raised.
“We are not involved in politics,” she said, adding that the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk had supported the hospitals.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also denied that the CPP is in any way involved with the event.
“This is the idea of ABC FM radio station to show loyalty to the King, organize blood donations and raise funds for Kantha Bopha pediatric hospital,” the minister wrote in an email.
“It would be an insult to the station if anyone says it is CPP initiative.”
Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that ABC had filed a request to use Olympic Stadium for the event, which would be sent on to Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong. Prampi Makara district police chief Yin San said “no command has been given” yet as to whether or not security will be needed at the stadium event, which is located in his district.
By appealing to the public to support King Sihamoni in the face of an unresolved election, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said a societal schism appears close to splitting the country in two—and so the King must take a more authoritative approach.
“There are two options for the King…. He could send an invitation to both leaders and ask to see them [this weekend] to try to resolve their differences,” Mr. Mong Hay said, adding that the second option would be for the King to urge both parties to come to an agreement themselves before Monday, as bi-party talks appear to have stalled.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said ABC was within its rights to hold the rally, though the political orientation of the station’s owner is well known.
“The ABC owner was instigating violence before the election and we lodged a complaint against him, but nobody addressed our complaint,” he said.
“He belongs to the CPP, so I don’t want to waste time commenting on what is his right to do.”