Avoiding a reprisal of the roadblocks and counter-protests that forced the cancellation of planned opposition events in recent days, Cambodia National Rescue Party vice president Kem Sokha gave a speech calling for peace and stability to hundreds of supporters at the party’s Kampong Thom province headquarters yesterday.
In his remarks – given around the time authorities were violently dispersing a group of demonstrators in Phnom Penh – Sokha reiterated his party’s willingness to negotiate with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, but not before the government stopped interfering with opposition gatherings and discontinued its use of violence to quell protests.
Sokha also maintained that the CNRP would stick to its demand for either a new election or an investigation into last July’s flawed vote as a prerequisite to further negotiations on topics like electoral reform.
“If they agree to that point, we will ask the King to be the honourable [mediator] and the international community to be a witness,” he said. “It would not be difficult at all, and our country will be peaceful.”
A planned opposition gathering in Kandal’s Sa’ang district last Tuesday was cancelled when hundreds of intimidating men and riot police gathered near the appointed venue. Another on Sunday was called off when authorities blocked roads leading to the CNRP’s Kampong Cham headquarters, and more than 1,000 CPP supporters demonstrated around Sokha’s hotel.
Yesterday’s meet, however, went off without a hitch.
The police presence was limited to a handful of officers and fewer than a dozen riot police standing across the street, while the only sign of counter-protest were two trucks – each bearing about 10 CPP supporters – that passed the venue hours before Sokha arrived.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.
On the subject of Sokha’s demands, however, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said yesterday that the most important thing is that the CNRP stop protesting and let the Ministry of Labour and workers sort out their differences over the minimum wage on their own.
“Kem Sokha should finish his protests because his party’s seats [in parliament] already increased from 29 to 55, and the CPP also agreed to reform the NEC for future elections,” he said.