The Sam Rainsy Party accused a UN-funded education program of “cheap tricks” after it canceled the party’s arrangements to hold a forum at a Takeo province hall on Sunday, according to a statement.
Sam Rainsy lawmaker Kuoy Bunroeun accused the Takeo office of the Seila Program—a national education program funded by the UN Development Fund—of caving into CPP pressure to prevent activists from attending.
“I think they want to disturb us from educating activists. This is a kind of discrimination against the Sam Rainsy Party, because until now the Seila Program had rented out the hall to [many] other NGOs,” he said.
Kuoy Bunroeun said that the forum on internal party reform, organized by the US-based National Democratic Institute and attended by some 140 Sam Rainsy Party activists, went ahead as scheduled, albeit at a Takeo municipal park.
NDI Senior Program Manager Dominic Cardi said Sunday that the booking was canceled Saturday night, with Seila Program representatives citing the absence of a written contract.
But Cardi said that a verbal agreement to hire the hall was arranged weeks in advance and that his staff had been given access to the hall a day earlier to store documents and office property. “[A]t about 9 pm they passed on the message to us that the event was off,” he said. “But the Takeo municipality allowed us to hold it in a park even though we didn’t have a permit.”
Cardi also accused the hall’s director, Seila Program Deputy provincial Administrator Touth Phent, of holding NDI property hostage Sunday in an attempt to sabotage the forum. “They locked all the doors and held all our stuff. The director refused to answer his phone. [Their actions] are politically suspect,” he said.
Cardi said the NDI would lodge a complaint with the Seila Program and expects an investigation into the matter.
Takeo province’s Koh Andet district governor, Sam San, confirmed that the Seila Program canceled the booking, but referred all questions to the Seila Program.
Touth Phent could not be reached for comment Sunday.