Mix authority forces remove CNRP stage at Freedom Park.
This morning state forces put a violent
end to CNRP supporters' long-standing occupation of Freedom Park, also known as
Democracy Plaza, an area in central Phnom Penh specifically designated for
This action follows two days of violence, which included the
shooting yesterday at the Canadia industrial zone which left at least four
civilians dead and dozens wounded.
The violence began at around 11.00 this morning when
hundreds of police and military police blocked roads surrounding Freedom Park
and rapidly and without warning moved in to clear the park of protesters. As
they approached, the residing protesters, many of whom were monks or women with
their children fled in fear leaving behind their belongings. The forces were
accompanied by hundreds of thuggish civilians wearing red arm bands who used
metre-long steel poles to beat and intimidate the peaceful protesters. Once the
park was clear of people, they and the uniformed forces tore down the stage as
well as temporary structures that had been built to provide shelter to
protesters, destroyed a Buddhist shrine and wrecked audio equipment belonging
to the CNRP.
LICADHO staff, as well as journalists and workers from other
NGOS, who were attempting to document the events and provide help to
protesters, were threatened by the thugs and prevented from entering the park
while the destruction took place.
"We are dismayed by the continuing use of violence. After
yesterday's tragic deaths, we hoped that the government would begin to exercise
restraint but their actions today show a complete disregard for the rights and
indeed the lives of their own citizens" said Naly Pilorge.
Today's action pre-empts a three-day vigil by the CNRP to
mourn yesterday's deaths which was widely-publicised to begin tomorrow. The
opposition party has been holding regular demonstrations since the July general
election, the result of which has been criticized by many observers. The latest
occupation of the park began on 15th December and has been wholly peaceful but
a letter issued today and signed by Pa Socheatvong, governor of Phnom Penh
municipality, stated that tomorrow's demonstration could not go ahead for
reasons of public order and accused the CNRP of inciting factory workers to
Additionally, during the day military forces were deployed
at a number of points throughout the city, and stationed at Veng Sreng road
where yesterday's fatal shootings occurred. This unusual movement of military
forces follows a Ministry of Defence statement issued yesterday which said that
it would protect at all costs the results of the July 2013 general election and
the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Moeun Tola, Head of CLEC's labor program, commented "Today's
events reveal that contrary to international perception the Cambodian
government has made no advance towards truly respecting human rights. Rather
than embracing as a sign of progress, the democratic expression that has been
flourishing in Cambodia in recent months the government is afraid of it and has
suppressed it. Today is a very sad day."
Finally, as the clearance of Freedom Park was taking place,
rumours began to circulate that arrest warrants had been issued for leading
CNRP members as well as unionists who have been involved in recent demonstrations
calling for higher wages in the public sector and garment factories. So far
these are unconfirmed but are being taken seriously by those named.
For more information, please contact:
- Mr. Am Sam Ath, Technical Supervisor of LICADHO 012-327-770
- Mr. Moeun Tola, Head of CLEC Labour Program, 066 777 056