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Cambodian Radio Station Supporters Injured in Clashes With Police

Mam Sonando (C), owner of a local independent radio station, is blocked by police officers during a demonstration in central Phnom Penh, March 31, 2014.
At least six people were injured, one of them seriously, as supporters of a radio operator and frequent government critic clashed with security forces in Phnom Penh.

About 100 protesters were confronted by baton wielding police Monday as they attempted to gather at Freedom Park, the government-sanctioned assembly space that was blocked by police on Sunday.

The clash was near the Ministry of Information, which has refused to grant Beehive radio permission to expand its network or add a television station to its operations.

Beehive owner Mam Sonando said his supporters have a right to assemble.

“Most of them [security forces] do not understand the law and the order was given illegally," he said. "We are simply demanding freedom. We will keep on pressing and will have more gatherings.”

But Phnom Penh government spokesman Long Dimanche disagreed, saying authorities have a right to stop what he called “illegal activities”.

“We simply maintain public order," he said. "The gathering was illegal.”

It is the second time in two months Beehive supporters rallied against the government decision not to grant a new TV license. A protest in January was also broken up by police.

Cambodia has seen an increase in violent clashes between protesters and police since the opposition declared that elections last July were rigged.

Beehive carries programming from the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other international agencies and is one of the few remaining independent broadcasters in the country.

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