PHOTOS: Violent Dispersal of Election Protest in Cambodia

Water cannons were used by police to disperse crowd. Image from @PonniahKevin

Water cannons were used by police to disperse crowd. Image from @PonniahKevin

The three-day protest organized by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was marred by violence when police and protesters clashed last Sunday.

The camp-in protest is a continuation of the series of assemblies by the CNRP aimed at pressuring the government to form an independent committee to probe the recent National Assembly elections.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) which has been in power in the past three decades won the elections but the results were rejected by the Opposition.

Despite the clashes during the first day of protest, more than 20,000 people were still able to attend the CNRP assembly at the Phnom Penh Freedom Park yesterday.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and CNRP leader Sam Rainsy also held a dialogue and agreed to renounce violence and reform the voter list. But they still disagreed on the fundamental demands of the opposition which included the formation of an independent committee. The opposition has earlier warned to boycott the opening of the Parliament session.

Road blockades were blamed by some groups for igniting the violence during the Sunday protest. Even non-protesters were prevented from crossing some parts of the city. Photo from urban Voice

Road blockades were blamed by some groups for igniting the violence during the Sunday protest. Even non-protesters were prevented from crossing some parts of the city. Photo from Urban Voice

Freedom Park protest. Image from ‏@PanhaTheng

Freedom Park protest. Image from ‏@PanhaTheng

A barricade separating the police and protesters. Image from @illied

A barricade separating the police and protesters. Image from @illied

Monks also joined the protest. Image from @illied

Monks also joined the protest. Image from @illied

Videos of the protest at the Freedom Park and the Sunday night clash between police and protesters were also uploaded on YouTube:

Cambodians are using the hashtag #electionsKH to monitor the election-related protests:

Opposition leader Mu Sochua wrote about the original plan for the three-day protest:

The camp-in will have a more of a Occupy Freedom Park atmosphere with the space shared with civil society combined with music and the Gandhi film in the evening.

The challenge will be toilets for 5,000 people for 3 days and nights.

Leaders of the opposition are expected to spend most of their time at the park

OU Ritthy described the set-up in the park:

Many people are bringing their family members to visit; they are roaming around and visiting demonstrators who are eating, sleeping, smoking and talking in manner of rural areas or grassroots people.

Translated into Khmer language, documentaries of Mahamta Gandhi and Martin Luther King are being displayed on four big screens placed at different corners of Freedom Park for demonstrators to watch.

Casey Nelson observed a significant deployment of police in the city:

In my estimation there were at least 25,000 people in the Freedom Park area midday today, perhaps significantly more, and more protestors were on the riverfront and in other areas.

Police presence around the city was much heavier today than it was for the last demonstration. Roads were blocked with concertina wire blockades across town making travel difficult, and PMs (gendarmes) and riot police in full gear were visibly out in significant force

Naomi Collett Ritz wrote what she saw at the scene of the clash:

As we got closer to the bridge we saw shrapnel, gas canisters, and chunks of pavement littering the bridge, and hundreds of armed police were lining the road and filing into a huge warehouse just. They let us run around and take photos, but no one would tell us what was going on. Then we heard gunshots, so we booked it down the street until we could find someone to give us a ride towards the source. Maybe fifty men were lining the street just down the road from the police under the bridge, and were feeding a handful of fires in the middle of the road.

Sovachana Pou believes many young Cambodians are in favor of change:

We will see in the next massive demonstrations how much the leaders of the opposition party leaders and our people are willing to sacrifice for this change. I have noticed that a good number of the nation’s youth rejected the values of their parents (status quo). They want fundamental change.

Sopheap Chak thinks the two major parties need to clarify their objectives:

I rather view the current political deadlock as the excuse by both sides of parties. The one who claimed to win the votes of people but dare not to address the problem properly and has failed to show enough effort toward resolution. The other side, opposition party, has also played an excuse around this political deadlock.

Local and international human rights groups have condemned the excessive use of violence by the police in dispersing the protesters which led to the death of one person. The police also reportedly used tear gas and live ammunition during the clash. Meanwhile, many people noted the failure of Cambodian TV networks to report the violent dispersal of the protest last Sunday.

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