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Hun Sen Warns Opposition Against Mass Rally

Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) attends a meeting at the National Assembly in central Phnom Penh, file photo.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned the opposition that there could be legal repercussions if a planned gathering over the weekend leads to violence.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party hopes to gather some 5,000 supporters in the capital’s Freedom Park on Sunday, to discuss with them the progress so far of political negotiations with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

It is the first mass rally the opposition has held since brutal crackdowns in January that killed at least four people and injured dozens others. Rallies in December and January proved a major challenge to Hun Sen’s decades-long authority.

City authorities on Thursday said they would not permit the gathering, but opposition leaders say they are going ahead as planned, setting the stage for potential conflict.

“Let them undertake any expression,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a hydroelectric dam in Pursat province on Thursday. “But do not ignite a war. The law has limits, and if it is exceeded, there will be no more patience and legal action will be taken.”

Mu Sochua, a Rescue Party leader, told VOA Khmer that Hun Sen’s warning was “a threat to the rights of expression of citizens.”

Opposition officials met with city leaders on Wednesday to discuss the proposed rally.

City spokesman Long Dimanche told reporters after the meeting the city will allow a Buddhist ceremony to mark the anniversary of a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally. But he said a rally at Freedom Park would not be permitted.

Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment Thursday. But on Wednesday he told reporters the party would go forward with a rally, permission or not. “I don’t think the CPP is stupid enough to ban us,” he said.