Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, July 22. They hope to settle the year-long political crisis that led to violent protests and arrests.
Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia Saturday. Up to 20,000 supporters gathered in the capital Phnom Penh to hear him speak. He called on the government to release opposition politicians from jail. He also called for talks to end the country’s political crisis.
Political tensions in Cambodia remain high one year after disputed elections. The government said Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party won the election. But the opposition and international observers disagreed.
In recent months, security forces have been trying to stop protests. Rights groups say the gatherings have been mostly peaceful. But last week supporters of Sam Rainsy attacked security forces that were trying to stop them from entering Freedom Park. Gatherings are not permitted at the park.
At the gathering, police arrested seven members of Sam Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party. The seven opposition leaders had been elected to the National Assembly but had not yet taken their seats. They were charged with criminal acts. They could be sentenced to prison for up to 30 years if found guilty.
Andre Giorgetta is a spokesperson for the International Federation of Human Rights. She said the violence happened because security forces have attacked opposition forces in the past.
“Our concern is the ongoing ban on peaceful assembly that is creating a situation that is very dangerous because a lot of people feel very frustrated and exasperated after months of demonstrations that have been repressed by the security forces, the security guards and sometimes even by hired thugs.”
Sam Rainsy called for negotiations to end the political crisis peacefully. Rights groups have criticized the detention of opposition members of parliament. They say the arrests make it more difficult to solve the political conflict.
I’m Caty Weaver.
This story was written in Special English by Christopher Cruise from a report by Ron Corben in Bangkok.