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Cambodia’s PM will ‘take action’ against protesters

Prime Minister Hun Sen departs for Europe. KT/Khem Sovannara. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Oct 23, 2020, Khmer Times. Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned he will take action if former opposition members hold a protest outside the Chinese Embassy today following a call by former CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy for Cambodians to demonstrate at Chinese embassies in several countries over allegations that Cambodia may be hosting Chinese military assets and personnel, Khmer Times reported.

Mr Hun Sen’s warning also comes as today is the 29th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreement.

His remarks were made while he visited thousands of flood victims in Banteay Meanchey province on Wednesday.

Mr Hun Sen said the government knows of the former opposition leaders’ plans to gather outside Chinese embassies and has asked those involved to cancel their plans.

He said that if former opposition party supporters want to gather today: “I would like to warn those who want to demonstrate in front of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh to be careful. There is flooding, do not come and disturb,” he said.

“There are people who are ready to come to Phnom Penh, as they recruit people from the provinces to demonstrate,” Mr Hun Sen said, adding that these people are under government observation and the situation is under control, urging them not to protest or hand out petitions today.

Mr Hun Sen said he was one of the signatories of the Paris Peace Agreement. He questioned former opposition leaders’ involvement in the agreement. “You want to protest? Do you know this agreement clearly? I am the one who negotiated for the Paris Peace Agreement,” he said. “Are you stupid to demonstrate inside and outside the country?”

Rainsy announced on Monday that in conjunction with the 29th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreement today, “Cambodians all over the world will hold demonstrations in front of Chinese embassies and consulates” to protest China’s alleged military presence in Cambodia.

He noted that demonstration will take place in US cities such as Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, as well as in several other countries’ cities such as Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Paris, Marseille, Brussels, Geneva, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, Seoul and Tokyo.

In a video interview, posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Rainsy urged people to respect the principles of the Paris Peace Agreement and maintain the neutrality of Cambodia, in contrast to what he cited as violations of democracy and human rights.

The United Nations brokered the Comprehensive Cambodian Peace Agreement, otherwise known as the Paris Peace Agreement, on October 23, 1991. A total of 18 countries, along with four Cambodian warring factions, signed the agreement.

The agreement effectively ended decades of armed conflict and paved the way for people to have self-determination in the first election in 1993.

The allegations that the Kingdom may be hosting Chinese military assets and personnel at Ream Naval Base hit headlines again after Cambodia demolished a US-built facility at the naval base in Preah Sihanouk province in September.

The concerns from the US Department of Defence were brushed aside by the Royal Cambodian Navy and the National Committee for Maritime Security.

Ministry of Interior spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that the authorities will take legal action if any protesters violate City Hall’s instructions concerning mass gatherings.

“As you know, Cambodia consistently practises democracy and freedom of expression, but they must abide by the law,” he said. “They have to apply for permission to gather at City Hall. If they do not allow it, do not oppose it. If they do [oppose it], they will face legal action.”

A group of civil society organisations yesterday also abandoned their plans to gather around 1,000 people at Freedom Park in Russey Keo district to celebrate the Paris Peace Agreement in the capital, after Phnom Penh deputy governor Keut Che limited the number of participants to only 120.

However, human rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeung Sen Karuna said yesterday a group of NGOs will gather in a private place in Chba Ampov district, where he expects around 1,000 will attend.

He said the NGOs are concerned about possible incidents that might happen at Freedom Park as some political parties also want to gather there.

“We are concerned that the authorities may think that we are joining with them. Civil society organisations will act independently, and we are not involved with any political parties,” he said. “Additionally, City Hall has not approved the number of participants that we requested, so we found a private place to gather instead.”

“It is controversial as the government has said a political group plans to submit petitions to the Chinese Embassy and possibly gather at Freedom Park, which could cause confusion [about our activities],” he said.

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