Chum Mey, one of the few people to survive the notorious Khmer Rouge prison Tuol Sleng, said Tuesday that a mass demonstration will proceed Sunday against opposition leader Kem Sokha, who allegedly made claims that Vietnam fabricated the regime’s well-documented crimes at the prison camp.
“On June 9, we will hold a mass demonstration in which more than 20,000 people will participate,” he said.
The demonstrators will gather at Freedom Park, Mr. Mey said, adding that he will ask City Hall for permission to allow 2,000 protesters to march to the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) headquarters in Tuol Kok district.
Mr. Mey first warned of the demonstration on May 25, soon after the government released an audio recording of Mr. Sokha, the CNRP’s acting president, in which he allegedly accuses Vietnam of staging the imprisonment and torture of more than 12,000 people at Tuol Sleng.
Mr. Mey called on Mr. Sokha to publicly apologize within 10 days or face a mass protest.
Mr. Sokha has since denied making the alleged comments regarding Vietnam, and has accused the government of doctoring his speech to score political points ahead of July’s national election.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who asked for a law to be passed criminalizing denial of Khmer Rouge crimes shortly after Mr. Mey warned of his demonstration, has also encouraged people to join the demonstration against his CNRP election rival.
Despite the prime minister’s endorsement and promotion of the demonstration, Mr. Mey insisted Tuesday that he acted independently.
“No one is behind me. I strongly deny that there is anyone,” he said.
As for mustering 20,000 demonstrators, Mr. Mey said he was sure the appeals he has been making on radio and television stations—nearly all of which are controlled by or tied to the CPP—would do the trick.
Mr. Sokha is currently in the U.S., but is scheduled to return to Cambodia on Friday.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Tuesday that the party was standing by its position that there would be no apology because Mr. Sokha never made the comments the government has attributed to him, and accused the ruling CPP of orchestrating the demonstration and using Mr. Mey against the opposition.
As for the planned march on CNRP headquarters, he said, “they have the right to show up, but do not block the way for [our] staff.”
Rather than rallying against Mr. Sokha, Mr. Sovann suggested demonstrators rally against the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders currently on trial and against the government for standing in the way of additional prosecutions of war crimes suspect currently living freely in Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)