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US Group Calls for Freedom of Assembly

The International Republican Institute issued a statement Monday calling on authorities to allow freedom of demonstration, in the wake of a threatened gathering by the opposition party.

The Sam Rainsy Party said Sunday, during a ceremony to honor those killed in a 1997 grenade attack, that it would call a massive demonstration over the government's inability to curb rising inflation.

The IRI said Monday it hoped the period leading into July's general election will allow "political parties and citizens alike the freely express their views," especially to honor those killed in the grenade attack.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said Monday the IRI should remain neutral.

"IRI's statement is not right, because international NGOs are to be neutral," he said. "And the July 27 election is not an election to honor the memory of anyone, but for development and national construction."

In issuing a statement linking the grenade attack, which killed at least 16 people, and the election, the IRI was serving as a "tool" for a political party, he said.

"I think this IRI statement is not different from the policy of the opposition party," he said.