Philip Ruddock, who served as Australia’s immigration minister between 1996 and 2003 and now serves as the government’s chief parliamentary whip, has described Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government as a “one-party state,” and said that Australia is concerned about the shooting deaths of five strike protesters in January.
At least 20,000 opposition supporters made their way to Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to begin the first of a three-day demonstration designed to urge signatories of the Paris Peace Agreement to intervene in the country’s current political deadlock.
Unlike at the previous protests conducted by the CNRP, the security presence around the capital was minimal and all major roads in the city center were open to traffic.
At about 3:30 p.m., tens of thousands of CNRP supporters left Freedom Park and marched to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hand in a petition asking officials there to push the government to conduct an independent investigation into election irregularities.
After City Hall originally said it would not allow the CNRP to march, the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it would let 1,000 opposition supporters march through the city.
On Thursday and Friday, more marches will take place in order to hand the same petition to a host of embassies belonging to countries that signed the 1991 Peace Agreement, which was signed 22 years ago today.
At a press conference this morning, CNRP leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha outlined the purpose of the demonstration—an investigation into July’s election, binding electoral reform and government adherence to the promises within the Paris Peace Agreements, including guarantees of a liberal and multi-party democracy.
Since July’s contested election, the CPP has pushed ahead with convening a one-party National Assembly and forming a new government headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, despite an ongoing boycott of parliament by the 55 elected CNRP lawmakers.
Addressing concerns by the government that opposition marches and demonstrations could get out of hand should crowds become too large, Mr. Rainsy said that the CNRP could guarantee that its supporters would not be the cause of violence.
“We ensure that our organization has taken every measure to ensure that there is no violence,” Mr. Rainsy said.
“If there is violence, it does not come from us. It comes from elements who want to provoke,” he said, adding that the CNRP would cooperate with government authorities to ensure that outside elements do not disturb the opposition demonstrations.
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