Riot police officers fired tear gas at protesters on Sunday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A clash began when security forces tried to disperse one gathering in the eastern part of the city.
Published: September 15, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Cambodia’s political deadlock turned violent on Sunday as opposition supporters clashed with security forces in the streets of Phnom Penh, leaving at least one person dead and several injured, according to journalists and a Cambodian human rights organization.
The violence came during a day of mass protests in the capital of Phnom Penh led by Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister and the leader of the opposition to Cambodia’s authoritarian prime minister, Hun Sen.
Security forces used tear gas and water cannons against protesters and fired their weapons into the air, according to Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. The circumstances of the death of the opposition supporter were still unclear, Mr. Ou Virak said.
The opposition is protesting alleged cheating in the country’s July elections and has vowed to step up demonstrations across the country unless an independent committee is formed to investigate the reports of widespread irregularities.
An effort to break the deadlock by King Norodom Sihamoni failed Saturday after Mr. Sam Rainsy and Mr. Hun Sen met for less than half an hour on Saturday.
Further meetings — and further protests — are planned for Monday.
The opposition’s first major protest on Sept. 7 proceeded without violence. In a country with a history of political violence, opposition leaders had gone to pains to emphasize the peaceful nature of their campaign.
On Sunday, protesters were angered when security forces tried to disperse them from one spot along a river in eastern Phnom Penh. According to The Associated Press, about 200 demonstrators had gathered there on one side of a barricade of barbed wire and roadblocks that had been erected to keep them away from the Royal Palace. They threw rocks and shoes at security forces, and one policeman was hit with a piece of metal, the news agency said.
Most of Phnom Penh was calm, however, after about 20,000 protesters gathered at the city’s Freedom Park earlier in the day.
The new session of the National Assembly is scheduled to begin Sept. 23, but the opposition has said it will boycott parliamentary proceedings until the issue of vote fraud is resolved. Cambodian and foreign vote-monitoring organizations say the government has not responded to requests about irregularities, including a very high number of temporary identification cards issued around the time of the election.
According to official results that were ratified earlier this month, Mr. Hun Sen’s party, the Cambodian People’s Party, won the election by a relatively slim margin over Mr. Sam Rainsy’s party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Mr. Hun Sen’s party received 68 seats in the National Assembly, and Mr. Sam Rainsy’s party 55. By law, Parliament has to convene within 60 days of the July 28 election.