Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said Sunday he was forced to dodge armed police who surrounded Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh to prevent him from staging an anti-Asean hunger strike.
Sam Rainsy said police barred several entrances to the pagoda, forcing him to sneak down a side entrance and scale a wall to enter the pagoda where he is protesting Cambodia’s hosting of the Asean Summit at a time when hundreds of thousands of farmers face food shortages.
“[Asean delegates] see a clean and beautiful city because the city has been cleared of street children and beggars,” Sam Rainsy said at Wat Ounalom, where he was passing time greeting visitors and reading a biography of India’s father of independence, Mahandas Ghandi.
“If they can’t see the hunger, then maybe they can feel the hunger through my actions,” he said. “I do not eat because it is my choice. There are many people who do not have a choice.”
The opposition leader also alleged some of his supporters and a monk at pagoda were threatened and man-handled by police who wanted to evict him from the temple grounds.
Ouch Thorn, deputy police chief of Daun Penh district, denied the pagoda was barred to Sam Rainsy, saying police had simply responded to reports that supporters and bodyguards of the politician had gathered there.
“We did not go to surround the pagoda. We went to check why people had crowded around that place,” Ouch Thorn said.
More than 671,000 Cambodians are in need of food aid after seasonal flooding and the worst drought in decades laid waste to subsistence rice crops, the World Food Program said recently.
Sam Rainsy said he will strike until Wednesday when delegates from the visiting Asean nations and the leaders of China, Japan, South Korea, India and South Africa leave Cambodia.
Despite earlier threats, Sam Rainsy said he will not hold streets demonstrations in Phnom Penh to protest summit.
(Additional reporting Pin Sisovann)