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Clashes Erupt Between Cambodian Opposition, Security Forces

  • Theara Khoun

Clashes between security forces and Cambodian opposition supporters in Phnom Penh have left nearly 60 people injured.

The violence occurred early Tuesday when Mu Sochua, an elected member of parliament from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, led hundreds of supporters to Freedom Park, which has been closed to rallies since January.

A group of security guards moved to beat back the protesters when they tried to hang a banner on the razor wire barring entry to the park.

Cambodian lawmakers from the main opposition party of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), from right, Men Sothavrin, Mu Sochua and Keo Phirum gesture to make the number seven, the party's ballot number, as they are detained by authorities at Freedom Pa

Cambodian lawmakers from the main opposition party of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), from right, Men Sothavrin, Mu Sochua and Keo Phirum gesture to make the number seven, the party's ballot number, as they are detained by authorities at Freedom Pa

The protesters, however, fought back and about 40 security guards were injured in the ensuing violence. According to witnesses, some were stripped of their uniforms while others were beaten with flags.

Mu Sochua, who was arrested along with other opposition officers, said in an interview with VOA's Khmer service she was trying to reopen Freedom Park for rallies and protests.

“As members of parliament elect we have fulfilled our roles, and once again we are here to ask for the release of Freedom Park and we will send this message to the Interior Ministry," said Sochua.

Long Dimanche, a spokesman for the city of Phnom Penh, blamed Rescue Party supporters for the violence and said its leaders could face criminal charges.

“Phnom Penh municipality vigorously condemns the use of violence by the youth group of the National Rescue Party on Daun Penh security guards," said Dimanche.

The clashes ended when gas canisters were fired into the crowd.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the violence demonstrates a “deep hatred” that has developed between protesters and guards.

“This is the result of anger being built up so far. Now, when it is ripe they simply fight each other. This is the result of cultivating the culture of violence. On behalf of civil society group we urge both sides to renounce violence because nobody will benefit from it," said Ath.

Freedom Park was closed as part of a larger ban on public assembly following major pro-labor and pro-opposition demonstrations in January.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

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