Phnom Penh: News Update — (UPDATE) Talks were held between Cambodia’s two political rivals, Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, one day after protests in Phnom Penh turned violent, leaving one dead.
A joint statement was issued after the meeting which promised more talks, election commission reform, and a non-violent end to the dispute, according to a BBC report.
The opposition accuses Hun Sen’s party of widespread election fraud in the July vote. The ruling party was confirmed the winner by the National Election Commission, giving the Cambodian People’s Party 68 seats in parliament, compared to 55 for the opposition Cambodian National Reform Party.
Though the figures represent a greatly reduced majority for the ruling party, the opposition is threatening to boycott the opening of parliament on September 23.
On Sunday, the demonstration was initially peaceful at Freedom Park, where tens of thousands gathered.
But when some protesters left the park and tried to remove police barricades leading to the Royal Palace, clashes with police followed.
Mr. Rainsy successful urged the protesters to return to the park, and calm was restored.
Later, more violent confrontations with police occurred at a bridge in the city. One man was killed by a gunshot to the head, and at least six others were injured, according to activists and a human rights group.
A National Military Police spokesman told Reuters the police had only used tear gas, batons and smoke grenades. “I don’t know how he was killed,” he said. “We didn’t use live bullets”.
The opposition party issued a statement Monday saying “it strongly condemns the violent, brutal act of the police”. It added that it did not condone the “small group of opportunists” who had caused trouble during the protests.
Over 1,000 protesters stay at Freedom Park overnight Sunday, and were joined by more demonstrators Monday morning, a Reuters report said.
Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni offered his condolences to the families of those hurt in the clashes.
“I would like to appeal to compatriots – both demonstrators and the authorities – to stop all violence such as throwing rocks and using weapons,” the King said.
With government institutions, including the election commission, under the control of Hun Sen, protests are the only way the opposition can challenge the election result, say correspondents. Image/Thomas Cristofoletti/ruom.net
[This article was originally published with a photo that Free District did not properly credit. Free District apologizes for this error. Randy Chester/Executive Editor, Free District]