Student activists called off their planned Sunday rally calling for an international tribunal to try Khmer Rouge leaders because they feared a government crackdown, the student group’s leader said Saturday.
“So far not only has the government not given us the right to demonstrate, but [it] also threatens to use military force to break us if we do,” Saro Sivutha, head of the Students’ Movement for Democracy, said at a press conference at Wat Neakawan in Tuol Kok.
“Therefore we have decided not to demonstrate [Sunday] because we would not like the blood of Khmer people to flow like [during the political protests of] last September,” he added.
While Saro Sivutha admitted that the student group has not directly received any threats from the government, he said his members heard government officials on the radio threatening to crack down if the students did demonstrate.
While the Cambodian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the Phnom Penh municipality must give permission for demonstrations. After the municipality turned down one request, authorities on Friday said it denied a second because the municipality fears unrest.
At their press conference, the students insisted they were a non-partisan, peaceful group and appealed to “to the UN, the international community, as well as the people of the world who love peace and justice to have the Khmer Rouge leaders sentenced.”
On Sunday, the area around Olympic stadium, where the rally had been scheduled, was empty of protesters and police.
But this might not spell the end of anti-Khmer Rouge student demonstrations.
Om Som An, another student activist, said the demonstrations were only postponed. The students will be watching the government negotiations with the international community, and especially with the UN, he said. If there is no move toward establishing a trial, the students plan to demonstrate during the April 21-23 Khmer New Year, he said.