Phnom Penh: Cambodian riot police used tear gas to break up a protest camp in central Phnom Penh on Saturday, dismantling shelters that had been there for weeks.
The incident occurred a day after five people were killed when police clashed with a protest by striking garment factory workers demanding a higher minimum wage.
“Around 10:30 am Freedom Park was totally surrounded and half an hour later they entered and totally dismantled the park,” opposition legislator-elect Mu Sochua said.
“It was hired thugs and special forces armed with metal pipes and batons. They aimed to maim,” she said. “Our supporters are totally dispersed. It is like a warzone.” Government spokesman Phay Siphan denied excessive use of force, saying that dismantling the camp was for the public good and reasons of sanitation.
“The park doesn’t allow anyone to make their residence there,” Mr. Siphan said.
“They continue to protest though it’s not authorized by City Hall,” he said. “This morning it was cleared to make sure public safety is restored after weeks of militants taking the opportunity to hijack unwilling garment workers to join the demonstration.” Mr. Siphan also denied rumours that arrest warrants had been issued for opposition leaders.
Tension has been mounting in Cambodia since July’s disputed national election was won by long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party says the voting was marred by widespread fraud.
The opposition has called for a new election and is demanding that Mr. Hun Sen step down after being in power for 30 years.