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Opposition Members Charged, Remanded

A man, with his hands painted with words that translate to "Release", demonstrate to demand the release of five opposition members of parliament, as police officers block a street near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 1

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday ordered two opposition members remanded, formally charging them with insurrection and incitement alongside six others arrested earlier this week in the wake of violent clashes between supporters and city security guards.

About 100 demonstrators gathered near the court to call for the release of all eight members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, including Mu Sochua, a senior member who holds dual US-Cambodian citizenship.

Hundreds of riot police were deployed around the court to prevent more clashes.

Tuesday’s violence came after supporters of Mu Sochua and the Rescue Party turned on district security guards who had barred them from entering Freedom Park.

Long Ry, one of the two men ordered to remain in jail Friday, appeared outside the court momentarily, telling supporters: “Don’t worry. I am OK. Continue to fight for democracy in Cambodia.”

Nuth Rumdoul, the other party member charged, told VOA Khmer at the court he had not incited violence at Freedom Park and had come willingly to be questioned by the court.

Kong Pisey, a defense lawyer for the men, said the courts had failed to arrest or question anyone from the security forces also involved in Tuesday’s clashes.

“The Cambodian government should be responsible for both sides,” he said.

Analysts told VOA Khmer Friday that the arrests of the opposition members are likely to be used as leverage by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in political negotiations over election reform.

The opposition has boycotted the government since July 2013 elections, claiming they were marred by fraud. Pro-opposition demonstrations led to a brutal crackdown in January, followed by a public ban on assembly that was at the center of Tuesday’s scuffle.

“This is an opportunity for the CPP to destroy the CNRP through the arrests,” political analyst Lao Monghay said. “This is a crucial challenge for the CNRP.”

Those charged face up to 30 years in prison for “insurrection” and “incitement” under Cambodian criminal codes.

Chheang Von, a lawmaker for the ruling party, told reporters Friday that the opposition had “pushed” Cambodia toward “war.”

“It is time to apply the law,” he said. “We gave them one year already. We don’t care what others say.”