Post-election Violence in Cambodia a Setback for Democracy

Freedom House condemns the Cambodian police’s deployment of water cannons, tear gas, and smoke grenades against opposition protesters during rallies in Phnom Penh on Sunday, September 15.

The three-day demonstration led by the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) reiterated the party’s call for an independent investigation into the July 28 election that declared the incumbent Cambodian People’s Party victors and was mired by irregularities.

More than 30,000 opposition supporters called for democracy in Cambodia as they joined CNRP leader Sam Rainsy during the demonstrations. After protesters taunted police by calling them “Vietnamese police,” throwing stones, and attempted to move barbed wire barricades, police retaliated by firing tear gas, smoke bombs, and water cannons into the crowd. One protester was shot in the head by a policemen and died, and several others were injured.

Freedom House calls for both sides to refrain from using violence, and for an independent investigation to be conducted into the multitude of irregularities in the wake the July 28 elections. Moreover, opposition activists should focus on getting their message out through all peaceful  available avenues, including the floor of the National Assembly, the media and other platforms that give citizens a voice in the political debate. Dissenters have limited outlets through which they can express their political views since Prime Minister Hun Sen began ruling Cambodia decades ago.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2013: Cambodia

Freedom of the Press 2013: Cambodia

Blog: Cambodian Election Results Signal Discontent with Autocratic Regime