Sar Kheng Summons Diplomatic Corps to Explain CPP Actions

Interior Minister Sar Kheng hosted a two-hour meeting of foreign diplomats Monday evening to explain the ruling CPP’s position on a number of issues related to the post-election crisis, including last week’s violent repression of garment worker strikes and opposition protests.

Diplomats and ambassadors from more than 20 countries, including the U.S., China and Australia, were present at the meeting at the Ministry of Interior, which began behind closed doors at just after 5 p.m. Journalists were not allowed to attend, with the exception of state television broadcaster TVK.

A participant in the meeting who asked not to be identified said that Mr. Kheng had raised five separate topics before the diplomats were allowed a brief opportunity to take part in an “exchange.”

The topics raised by Mr. Kheng were the disputed results of July’s national election, political negotiations with the CNRP in the election aftermath, the recent repression of opposition protests, court summonses for the country’s opposition leaders and the possibility of a solution to the political crisis, the source said.

“The first point was about the election and the establishment of the National Assembly,” the source said.

“On that, he repeated the CPP story that the election was carried out according to the law and had satisfied international observers and that the King had invited both parties to take office and speak peacefully.”

“The second point was the demands of the CNRP during the negotiations, which he said began being focused around the leadership of the National Assembly,” they said.

“Then they demanded an independent investigation into the election results, and their demands kept changing, including the resignation of NEC officials and then of the prime minister.”

“The third point was on the temporary postponement of demonstrations,” the source said.

The government on Saturday sent plain-clothes men wielding metal pipes, batons, sticks and axes, to forcibly clear demonstrators from Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, where the CNRP had been basing its protest calling for Prime Minister Hun Sen to stand down for almost three straight weeks.

The clearance came a day after military police wielding AK-47 assault rifles killed five striking garment factory workers during their repression of a wildcat protest that broke out along garment-factory lined Veng Sreng Street on Phnom Penh’s outskirts.

It has since banned public gatherings.

“He said this was necessitated by the need to ensure order, national security and that people had been encouraged to take more and more extreme actions, as evidenced by the actions of recent days,” the source explained.

“For this reason, and until the situation is normalized, they found it necessary to halt the demonstrations. He did say they were deeply saddened first by the loss of life.”

“The fourth point was their legal measures against Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha and Rong Chhun,” the source said, referring to the president and vice president of the CNRP, and the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions.

All three have been summonsed to appear for questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court next Tuesday for their apparent role in inciting the violence that broke out last week.

“[Mr. Kheng said] this was decided by the actions of the three men in committing crimes, and that the government was committed to allowing people to exercise their human rights and freedoms only in a way that doesn’t affect others,” the source said.

“When it does, he said that they need to take action. He made it clear that the three had not been charged but had only been called in for questioning before an investigation judge.”

The source said that Mr. Kheng had finished his address by saying that the only solution to the political crisis could be peaceful negotiations between the parties.

“Tonight’s only significance was that they felt the need to explain this to the international community,” the source said of the meeting.

“I was satisfied by the gesture, and that he felt the need to call the meeting, but as for the substance of the meeting, I think that needs to be followed up with something more.”

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.