Cambodian authorities yesterday dispersed opposition protesters from their rally base in the capital and halted further protests against the kingdom’s strongman premier, a day after police launched a deadly crackdown on striking garment workers.
Dozens of security personnel armed with shields and batons flooded into the area in central Phnom Penh, causing several hundred protesters to flee, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. There did not immediately appear to be serious clashes as a result of the move. It comes a day after a crackdown on textile workers that left at least three dead, and which rights campaigners condemned as the country’s worst state violence against civilians in more than a decade.
Authorities said the recent unrest had prompted them to put a stop to the daily anti-government rallies. Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong said in a statement that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) would not be allowed to hold demos or marches “until the security situation and public order is restored to normal.”
The opposition party, which has boycotted parliament since a disputed July election that returned Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to power, had planned a major three-day protest starting from today.
“This is the act of communist dictatorship,” opposition spokesman Yim Sovann told reporters.
Protesters have occupied Democracy Park since last month as part of demonstrations against Hun Sen’s government that swelled to an estimated 20,000 or more opposition supporters on the streets on Sunday last week.
Hun Sen faces a growing challenge to his nearly three-decade rule from protesting garment workers and opposition supporters demanding that he step down and call a new election because of alleged vote fraud in the July poll.
The recent violence saw striking workers armed with sticks, rocks and Molotov cocktails clash with rifle-wielding police in the Veng Sreng factory district of Phnom Penh on Friday.