A video showing police receiving training on how to violently disburse protesters has sparked outrage among members of the opposition and political analysts, who said it was intended to intimidate voters.
The training followed a recent call for mass demonstrations by the Cambodia National Rescue Party if the authorities attempted to arrest its deputy leader, Kem Sokha, who was convicted earlier in September of failing to appear in court on another charge.
In the clip, posted online by the National Police on September 23, General Neth Savoeun, the national police chief, said it was the first such training course “to prevent demonstrations.”
The footage shows officers clad in riot gear advancing on people playing the part of violent demonstrators, firing stun grenades and smoke bombs at the mob.
Savoeun accused demonstrators of not remaining peaceful as promised in the aftermath of a deadly strike in 2013, when authorities shot dead at least five workers and bystanders.
The training, he added, was assisted by three advisors from Vietnam’s national police force.
“They say that Cambodia is having a political crisis, but in fact there is no political crisis, there are only some politicians who are in jail and some non-governmental organization [workers] in prison,” he said.
Following a months-long boycott of parliament by the CNRP after its members were targeted in legal cases, which are widely believed to be politically motivated, the party announced it would hold a mass demonstration in response.
Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman, said the party had only promised to hold a peaceful protest, adding that the training was intended to intimidate opposition supporters.
“[The training] affects their [CNRP supporters’] feeling and mood and makes them fearful,” he said.
Meas Ny, a political analyst, agreed with Sovann that the training was intended to intimidate opposition supporters.
“The forces’ preparation is a threat to its own people... and a waste of the government budget,” he said.