Opposition rally draws 20,000 in Cambodian capital


Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - Page 6

About 20,000 Cambodian opposition supporters yesterday wrapped up a three-day demonstration to petition foreign embassies and the UN for intervention in what they claim was a rigged election.

While the international community is very unlikely to intervene in Cambodia’s domestic affairs, the rallies served to highlight the opposition’s demand for an independent probe into the July 28 poll, which it says returned Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to power illegitimately.

Throngs of demonstrators marched through the capital this week, as they delivered petitions to the French, British, US, Australian, Russian, Japanese, Indonesian and Chinese embassies, and to the UN human rights office. Official election results extended Hun Sen’s 28-year rule and gave his party 68 seats in parliament, compared with 55 for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party. The party says it was cheated out of a victory and that it will boycott parliament until the government has met its demands.

According to the petition — which the opposition says was thumb printed by 2 million people — the Cambodian government’s failure to investigate election irregularities and its inauguration of the National Assembly without the opposition “take Cambodia back to a one-party system of governance.”

The three-day demonstration coincides with the 22nd anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia, which laid the groundwork for UN-sponsored elections after the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge and years of civil war that followed. The countries that received opposition petitions were all signatories to the 1991 Accords.

The government denies election fraud and has rejected opposition demands for an independent investigation. It maintains that its inauguration of a new parliament last month was legitimate and has filled parliamentary commissions with ruling party members.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said that intervention from abroad was “not going to happen.”

Moreover, seeking outside help was counterproductive to building democracy from within Cambodia, he said.

“By going abroad, you’re actually reconfirming this attitude of we need to depend on the UN jumping out of the sky, out of a plane or whatever, to rescue us,” he said.

The Australian embassy said in a statement yesterday that it had received the petition and that its ambassador, Alison Burrows, “urged both parties to continue their dialogue including on electoral reform.”