Opposition CNRP vice president Kem Sokha on Thursday stood firmly by his party’s position that it would call mass demonstrations and boycott the National Assembly unless the U.N. takes part in an independent investigation of last month’s contested national election.
So far, there has been no commitment from the U.N. to investigate irregularities and the ruling CPP has rejected any investigation not headed by the National Election Committee (NEC), which is widely considered as being loyal to the ruling party.
Speaking to more than 200 supporters at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh, Mr. Sokha dispelled rumors circulating online that the CNRP had set an August 20 date for the mass demonstrations. But he said they would happen if the CPP continued to reject the opposition’s conditions for an impartial investigation of what it believes to be widespread voting irregularities.
“The final step is to demonstrate,” he said. “We will ask the people, and if the people do not agree with the solution, they will stand up to demonstrate. We will support the people to demonstrate and we will ask the people to demonstrate with nonviolence.”
The government has redeployed hundreds of soldiers to Phnom Penh over the past week to prepare for the demonstrations, along with several armored personnel carriers. As Mr. Sokha was speaking yesterday, several tanks were spotted heading toward the city as well.
Mr. Sokha urged supporters not to worry.
“If the people demonstrate, they [the government] will use the armored personnel carriers to crack down,” he said. “This would be a problem because the U.N. will know and the [International Criminal Court] will sentence them.”
Mr. Sokha played up the CNRP’s mistrust of the NEC, calling it little more than a branch of the CPP.
“The NEC is the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodian People’s Party is the NEC,” he said, calling the committee a “disease.”
“We want a committee with NGOs that is neutral to do the investigation and we want U.N. observers,” he added. “If they [the CPP] don’t negotiate and they don’t create this committee to investigate the irregularities, we cannot accept it. Sixty days after the election, if we cant reach a resolution, we will not join the meeting of the National Assembly.”
CNRP president Sam Rainsy met with senior officials from the U.N. Department of Political Affairs in New York on Monday, though neither he nor the U.N. would comment on the talks.
The CPP is refusing to take part in any investigation not under the auspices of the NEC. Prime Minister Hun Sen has also insisted that the CPP can convene the Assembly without the CNRP—though independent analysts and legal experts disagree—and warned that the opposition’s hard-won seats may go to the CPP if it attempted a boycott.
“If the NEC cannot give us justice, will the people dare to demonstrate?” Khoeun Virath, a law student, asked the crowd at the CNRP’s headquarters.
The crowd replied with a rowdy “Yes!”