A security guard chases a Buddhist monk from a camp occupied by anti-government demonstrators in Phnom Penh yesterday.
PHNOM PENH: Anti-government demonstrators said yesterday they had called off a mass rally they had planned to stage in the Cambodian capital today after a bloody crackdown on garment workers allied with the protest movement.
The decision to call off the rally came hours after security guards and city workers, watched over by riot police, dismantled a camp occupied by anti-government demonstrators.
Friday’s clashes, during which police shot dead four people, have stoked a political crisis in which striking workers and supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) are challenging a government they say cheated its way to power and is depriving them of a fair wage. CNRP leader Sam Rainsy had vowed earlier that today’s mass march and rally would go ahead. He also condemned Friday’s violence and demanded a thorough investigation.
“The Cambodia National Rescue Party would like to inform all national compatriots that the party will suspend the (planned) protest,” the CNRP said in a brief statement. Hundreds of CNRP supporters had been camped since December 15 in tents around a stage in Freedom Park, the only place in Phnom Penh where protests are allowed.
Many CNRP supporters grabbed their belongings and fled, some clutching babies, when they saw riot police approaching Freedom Park, witnesses said.
Riot police, however, held back from the main site while security guards and city workers in plain clothes, some carrying axes and steel pipes, moved in to dismantle the stage and tents. Three helicopters flew low overhead, while riot police carrying batons kept journalists away from the site.
The CNRP accused “forces in civilian clothing” of beating demonstrators and urged its supporters not to retaliate. Phnom Penh municipality spokesman Long Dimanche said CNRP leaders had been sent a letter telling them protests would no longer be tolerated.