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Cambodia's Rainsy Attends Court Hearings on Protest Unrest

  • VOA News

Sam Rainsy (R), leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), arrives at the Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, Jan. 14, 2014.

Sam Rainsy (R), leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), arrives at the Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, Jan. 14, 2014.

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy appeared before a Phnom Penh court Tuesday to answer claims of "inciting civil unrest" during a recent labor protest.

Five people were killed during a police crackdown on the early January protest, which was calling for higher wages for workers at a garment factory near the capital.

Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) supported the protests. But he denies inciting the violence, saying the charges are politically motivated.

Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, were greeted by thousands of supporters as they arrived at the Phnom Penh court for questioning Tuesday.

Mu Sochua, an opposition member of parliament, said the government has no evidence to support its claims that the CNRP incited the violence.

"This is the mockery of justice. We are the people fighting for justice, fighting with non-violence, non-violent means. We seek democracy, non-violence means true peace for Cambodia," said Mu Sochua.

The CNRP has been demanding that longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen step down and call a new election because of alleged fraud in a July poll.

The 61-year-old, who has ruled Cambodia for 28 years, reiterated Tuesday he will not resign. He has vowed to stay in power until he is 74.

Critics say Hun Sen has become increasingly authoritarian, stifling dissent and directing his security forces to use excessive force.

In the January 3 incident, five people were killed and 40 injured by an elite military unit that fired into a crowd protesting outside Phnom Penh.

The protesters were demanding a doubling of the minimum wage to $160 per month.

Following the clashes, the government announced an indefinite, general ban on protests, though small, unauthorized protests have continued.

The government has not charged Rainsy with a crime regarding the clashes.
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