Government security forces kept up a visible presence in central Phnom Penh on Sunday morning after what on Saturday promised to be the first of many opposition-led mass protests against the contested results of the country’s July 28 national election.
Some 20,000 CNRP supporters turned out for Saturday’s peaceful rally despite warnings from the government of possible violence, and military and riot police in full gear were still manning roads Sunday with metal barricades ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
Military police spokesman Brigadier General Kheng Tito said the security forces were all still in the city, on alert, and would stay that way until the next government is formed.
“We haven’t withdrawn our forces to anywhere. We will continue to maintain security until the new government is formed,” he said. “When the lawmakers enter the National Assembly and everything is done and the situation returns to normal, we will withdraw our forces.”
The Assembly is constitutionally bound to hold its first meeting by September 28. The CNRP is threatening to boycott the meeting unless the government agrees to the investigation of alleged irregularities, but Prime Minister Hun Sen says the Assembly can proceed without them.
Now that the CNRP had proved to authorities that it can hold demonstrations peacefully, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said it was time for the government to start reversing the security buildup—which the CNRP has denounced as intimidation.
“They should not be here to begin with,” she said.
Ms. Sochua said police had detained two trucks carrying party supporters to the protest from Takeo province Saturday morning because their drivers supposedly lacked the necessary permits, though the passengers were allowed to continue on. Another two vans packed with supporters coming from Kompong Cham were also reportedly detained on Friday evening.
“It’s unconstitutional because it affect the human rights of the people, including the right to assembly,” she said.
Long Dimanche, spokesman for the municipal government, which ordered the checkpoints, said Sunday that he was unaware of the alleged incidents.
At a press conference after the release of official election results Sunday, the CNRP announced it would hold three more days of protests next week.
(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)