Cambodian police disperse opposition rally

05 january 2014, 14:41
Cambodian authorities Saturday dispersed opposition protesters from their rally base in the capital and halted further protests against the kingdom's strongman premier, a day after police launched a deadly crackdown on striking garment workers, AFP reports.

Dozens of security personnel armed with shields and batons flooded into the area in central Phnom Penh, causing several hundred protesters to flee, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. There did not immediately appear to be serious clashes as a result of the move.

It comes a day after a crackdown on textile workers that left at least three dead, and which rights campaigners condemned as the country's worst state violence against civilians in more than a decade.

Authorities said the recent unrest had prompted them to put a stop to the daily anti-government rallies.

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said in a statement that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) would not be allowed to hold demos or marches "until the security situation and public order is restored to normal".

The opposition party, which has boycotted parliament since a disputed July election that returned Hun Sen to power, had planned a major three-day protest starting from Sunday.

"This is the act of communist dictatorship," opposition spokesman Yim Sovann told AFP.

Protesters have occupied Democracy Park since December as part of demonstrations against premier Hun Sen's government that swelled to an estimated 20,000 or more opposition supporters on the streets last Sunday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen faces a growing challenge to his nearly three-decade rule from protesting garment workers and opposition supporters demanding that he step down and call a new election because of alleged vote fraud in the July poll.

The recent violence saw striking workers armed with sticks, rocks and Molotov cocktails clash with rifle-wielding police in the Veng Sreng factory district of Phnom Penh on Friday.

The UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Surya P Subedi, criticised the shootings, calling on the government to launch an investigation.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, an independent activist group, has said at least 25 demonstrations were violently repressed in 2013 by security forces using guns, tear gas, water cannon and batons, leaving two people dead, one person paralysed and causing three women to suffer miscarriages.

Hun Sen -- a 61-year-old former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and oversaw Cambodia's rise from the ashes of war -- has ruled for 28 years, and has vowed to continue until he is 74.

Parliament in late September approved a new five-year term for Hun Sen. The opposition decried that as a "constitutional coup".

Last month Hun Sen ruled out holding a new election and rejected opposition calls for him to step down.

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