Students Rally Across City

More than 3,000 student protesters took an all-day tour of the capital Thursday, marching en masse to two ministries, four embassies and the European Union office to protest what they say was a rigged election.

Riot police, as many as 200 in some places, stood guard outside some of the sites, but took no action against the demonstrators.

The Students for Democracy’s marathon march was the second in two days for the group, which grew out of the ongoing opposition sit-in across from the Nation­al Assem­bly.

Wearing cardboard protest signs shaped into mortar boards and sometimes monks’ saffron habits, the students rallied at several embassies asking the respective countries not to recognize the official election results an­nounced this week.

“We are here demanding the rejection of the results of the election. We ask [Second Prime Minister] Hun Sen to step down from power and allow new elections,” said Chhin Tamkick, a student and monk, over a portable loudspeaker.

Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party have said the students are separate from their parties.

In all, the students marched on the ministries of Information and Interior; the French, Japanese, Vietnamese and US em­bassies; and the EU office. The march began and ended in front of the Royal Palace.

The students seemed to target embassies of countries that have urged all parties to accept the election results.

Japan on Tuesday issued a statement recognizing the election results and urging speedy formation of a coalition, a stance the students took issue with.

“The Japanese stance is not justice. We wish and hope you will cooperate with us to find justice,” one student shouted.

At the EU office in the mid-afternoon, students protested the European observer team’s part in the Joint International Observer Group statement that called the elections credible.

“When the EU declared the result of the election free and fair, it means the EU is taking a big stick to beat the Cambodian people and the will of the voters,” said Keo Hok Ly, a student dem­onstrator.

Sven Linder, chief election ob­server, met with five student representatives and outgoing BLDP parliamentarian Kem Sokha for nearly three hours.

Linder promised to respond to the students today. He said the EU has yet to make its final declaration on the elections. That should come late this month.

At the US Embassy, the students’ mood turned more friendly, as the US administration has taken a wait-and-see approach on the elections and several members of the US Congress have a strong pro-opposition stance.

“Please do not recognize the results,” the students chanted outside the em­bassy, where they stayed for about an hour.

Sympathetic vendors donated food to the students during their mid-day sit-in at the US Em­bassy. Others skipped lunch. “We have mis­sed lunch two or three times this week, but we can be patient because we need democracy in Cam­bodia,” said one student.

Another said Hun Sen was right to say this week the thousands at opposition rallies in the past 12 days are mostly beggars. “He is right. Now, we are beggars. We beg for Hun Sen to turn his power over to the Cambodian people to build democracy,” the student said.

The students also want publicity. Their vehement protest outside the Ministry of Information demanded for a second day the marches be on state-run television, which has generally downplayed the unprecedented opposition protests. The students said they would not be responsible for any violence that occurs if they are not featured on the news.

Also, in a Wednesday statement the National United Front dismissed the official results and said the process was “illegal, undemocratic and un­fair.” The 10 parties, including the Son Sann, Cambodian Neutral and Khmer Unity parties, said they collectively gained 50.3 percent of the vote and therefore reject and don’t recognize the results.

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