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Opposition Cancels Rally in Face of Ruling Party Intimidation

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy, right, accompanied by his party's Vice President Kem Sokha, second from right, waves to his party supporters during a public forum of the July 28 election result, in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Several hundred armed security forces and supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party caused the break up of a gathering of the opposition Tuesday, adding to ongoing disruptions of demonstrations this month.

Cambodia National Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy said police were attempting to incite violence among opposition supporters, forcing the cancelation of a rally in Kandal province’s Saang district, where the Rescue Party won in July’s election.

Opposition officials said they were hoping to host a forum, but that the police presence, as well as the presence of pro-CPP activists scattered through the crowd meant a cancelation was the best idea.

“The scheme devised by those in power is intended to cause problems which could subsequently lead to violence on CNRP supporters,” Sam Rainsy told reporters later. “They were set up to lure me and Kem Sokha into their trap.”

Opposition supporters have been demonstrating for weeks against election results they say were marred by fraud. They have called for a recall election and the resignation of Prime Minsiter Hun Sen.

Sam Rainsy and party vice president Kem Sokha were scheduled to meet supporters in Kandal on Tuesday, 50 kilometers south of the capital.

However, a heavy contingent of police and military police were deployed along the highway leading to the venue, including riot police stationed outside the Keto Oudom pagoda. Added to their ranks were plainclothes CPP supporters.

Eng Chhay Eang, a Rescue Party lawmaker elect and head of the party’s Kandal province working group, said CPP members were scattered among the crowd.

“So if we had continued our meeting, something could have exploded,” he said. “Therefore, we decided to postpone the meeting and let people go back home.”

Kem Sokha said the Rescue Party had conducted “hundreds of forums” in the past without incident.

“Why has this problem occurred now?” he said. “This happened only after Hun Sen instigated it on TV. This is why CPP activists came out like that.”