A student who appeared to lead a protest this week against U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi claimed Thursday the university lecture hall confrontation was completely unplanned, and had nothing to do with his close connections to a CPP-aligned youth movement.
On Tuesday evening, 23-year-old Chea Chheng, a student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, was among the most vocal of a group of students who angrily accused special rapporteur Subedi of bias, as others unfurled banners calling for Mr. Subedi to cease his work monitoring human rights in Cambodia.
Fellow students identified Mr. Chheng as a well-known figure with the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) a CPP-aligned youth group headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son and CPP National Assembly candidate Hun Many.
In an interview Thursday, Mr. Chheng said he only volunteered for the UYFC, as he did for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s national land-titling program, and said Tuesday’s demonstration against the envoy at the Cambodian Mekong University was spontaneous and was not linked to the CPP.
“I just wanted to respond to the failure of [Mr. Subedi’s] report. That’s why I took the opportunity of his lecture at the university to raise my questions regarding his report,” Mr. Chheng said. “The protest was not planned or pre-organized. Being a Cambodian youth, I have the right of free expression,” he said.
“Banners, of course, were prepared by other students, but it was not planned in advance,” he said.
“Indeed, I was not a leader of the protest. Whatever I did was not for the gain of any political party. I just expressed my disappointment [with Mr. Subedi].”
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said he could not say for sure whether the students were politically motivated, but said that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if some of the young protesters turned up in government positions in the future.
Independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Wednesday that there were reasons why young people would want to join pro-CPP youth movements.
“It’s quite understandable. There are incentives they enjoy,” he said. “They can find jobs and that kind of thing—privileges.”
An earlier youth movement loyal to Mr. Hun Sen, the Pagoda Children, Intelligentsia and Students Association, widely known as the Pagoda Boys, were a regular presence for a number of years, staging pro-government counter-demonstrations against groups affiliated to the political opposition. The group of avid Hun Sen loyalists would frequently intervene, physically, in so-called inappropriate protests, by factory workers seeking wage rises, for example.
The Pagoda Boys have been quiet of late, though the group’s former president, Seng Sovannara, was in 2005 appointed as deputy governor of Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, and now serves as an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Justice.