Apparently incensed by a lack of largesse from the CNRP, about 15 villagers in Oddar Meanchey province burned a sign bearing the opposition party’s logo during a protest on Friday morning, local police and party members said.
The protest was led by Kem Kosal, a disaffected former CNRP activist who also led a defection of 564 party members in Oddar Meanchey to the ruling CPP in August. More recently, Mr. Kosal spearheaded a protest against CNRP President Sam Rainsy when he visited the province last week.
In his latest anti-opposition demonstration on Friday, the newly fledged CPP member led about 15 people in a protest in Samraong City, congregating on the land of local resident Chum Yann, 63, where a wood-and-vinyl CNRP sign had stood for the past five years.
After Ms. Yann and Mr. Kosal berated the opposition party for not providing local villagers with money or gifts, members of the crowd pushed the sign over, then held a lighter to it and watched it go up in flames, according to video footage of the protest posted to the website of the Fresh News service.
“At around 10 a.m. on Friday morning, people knocked down the sign of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and also they burned it, accusing the CNRP of not respecting them or providing donations for five years,” said So San, the city police chief.
Mr. San said he and his officers purposefully avoided policing the rally because they did not want to be accused of participating in it. He also said he was unsure whether the protesters had committed any crime.
“We can’t accept a complaint because this is a civilian case, so they [the CNRP] would have to complain to the court directly. I don’t know if there is a law to punish people for burning,” he said.
However, Kinh Vannak, acting executive director of the CNRP’s provincial committee in Oddar Meanchey, said the party would file a complaint with police. He said he believed the idea to burn the sign had not come from the villagers, but that they were incited by “some political party.”
“If people are unhappy or don’t want to have a sign in front of their house, they can ask us to move it,” he said.
Mr. Kosal, the protest leader, said that Ms. Yann contacted him with the idea to burn the sign and that the protesters were angry that the CNRP had given them nothing in exchange for their support.
“She [Ms. Yann] has no belief in the CNRP anymore—she tried to support them, but they never give anything back to her, or donate,” he said. “If there was no burning, Sam Rainsy or the CNRP would go on lying to villagers forever.”
In the Fresh News video, Ms. Yann is shown telling an interlocutor, “Since I put the CNRP sign here five years ago, I never received donations, and I am an old woman. I think of my grandchildren and their futures. That is the reason I am unhappy and wanted to remove this sign.”