Unauthorized P Vihear Anniversary Demonstration Blocked

Authorities yesterday morning dispersed a group of fewer than 10 demonstrators in the capital after City Hall denied their request to gather in commemoration of the second anniversary of military clashes near Preah Vihear temple.

The protesters later moved to a rally at the headquarters of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, where CITA President and protest organizer Rong Chhun urged the government to resolve the border dispute before a crowd of some 20 people.

“We want the government of Cambodia to show real responsibility and will to solve this border dispute with Thailand,” Mr Chhun said in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang III commune.

Yesterday’s planned protest was “not against the government,” Mr Chhun explained, but to ask Thai­land to respect past border agreements and the 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice that Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia.

Mr Chhun claimed that more than 100 demonstrators were blocked from meeting at Wat Botum Park yesterday.

“Many policemen were de­ployed on the road to block the pro­testers from getting into the compound,” he said.

Municipal police chief Touch Na­ruth said police barricaded the roads around the park yesterday and told anyone who arrived to go to CITA headquarters.

“We did not see too many protesters,” he said. “There were only eight.”

The Interior Ministry backed City Hall’s rejection of the request to hold a protest at the park “be­cause there would be a big traffic jam,” ministry spokesman Lieu­te­nant General Khieu Sopheak said. Authorities stopped a similar demonstration last year.

Yesterday’s planned protest was addressed by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in comments reported Wednesday by the Thai News Agency. The Thai premier reportedly said “Phnom Penh ap­parently wanted to apply ‘psychological warfare’ by organizing” the event. In fact, City Hall stopped the protest from going forward.

“As for the plan to revive the still-bitter bilateral ties between Thai­land and Cambodia, Mr Abhisit said the ball was in the Cambodian court,” TNA reported.

Bangkok and Phnom Penh recalled their ambassadors last November after fugitive ex-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shina­wa­tra was named an adviser to the Cambodian government.

But Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said the restoration of normal diplomatic relations depended on Thailand.

“Our stance is still unchanged, and the restoration of diplomatic relations is up to the Thai side, not Cambodia,” he said, pointing out that Thailand was the first to recall its ambassador.

Referring to the border conflict, Mr Kuong said Cambodia was pursuing a “bilateral and peaceful solution with Thailand,” while also preparing for a “multilateral solution” through the UN, though there were no firm plans to involve the UN.

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