PHNOM PENH: Cambodia yesterday defended its bloody crackdown on street protests in the face of growing international alarm, denouncing the rallies against strongman premier Hun Sen as violent and illegal.
Anti-government demonstrations have been banned indefinitely after several striking workers were shot dead by police last week while dozens of others were injured.
On Monday five land activists were detained temporarily as they tried to hold a rally.
“The demonstrations abused the law,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters, insisting that the government had exercised restraint for months.
“The public generally applauds the decision by the government to halt the violent demonstrations.”
Hun Sen has faced an increasing challenge to his nearly three-decade rule from garment workers seeking a pay rise, as well as from opposition supporters demanding that he call a new election due to alleged vote fraud in a July poll.
Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha have been summoned to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 14 for questioning in connection with the recent unrest.
The opposition party has boycotted parliament since last year’s election, alleging that Hun Sen was returned to power because of widespread vote-rigging.
The 61-year-old prime minister has ruled for 28 years and vowed to continue until he is 74.
He has faced mounting criticism over his rights record as well as accusations of excessive force against demonstrators.
Last Friday police opened fire on striking garment factory employees demanding a minimum wage of $160 per month for their work in an industry which supplies brands like Gap, Nike and H&M. AFP