Barricades were set up and hundreds of security forces deployed in Phnom Penh on Tuesday in an attempt to block opposition supporters from delivering petitions to foreign embassies calling for action on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
City Hall had banned the march from taking place.
The barriers were set up along a key thoroughfare in the capital near the headquarters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Demonstrators intended to deliver the petition to the embassies of the signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Accord, which formally ended the Cambodian-Vietnamese war and ushered in the beginning of United Nations administration.
Son Chhay, the CNRP’s chief whip, said the continued detention of opposition lawmakers and the apparent failure of the authorities to properly investigate the murder of popular political commentator Kem Ley in July showed that Cambodian democracy was in peril.
Eight opposition lawmakers taking part in the march were also blocked from reaching the foreign embassies, he added.
“The government has always maintained that the country is at peace,” he said. “This morning’s actions showed there is no peace and the government should not have allowed this to happen.”
The delays caused by traffic congestion due to the blocking of the road led to serious disruptions for commuters.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said the municipality had deployed police to maintain security, adding that “in every country there are rules that say protesters must have permission from the local authorities”.
Political analyst Ou Virak said the response from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to the planned demonstration was a sign that it was afraid of mass gatherings.
“This was a failure of the government and City Hall and it has made people angry with them. It was a wasted political strategy from the government.”
Facing such a heavy security presence, the CNRP canceled the march, instead allowing five lawmakers to deliver the petitions to the embassies.