Police officials stand guard yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum park where CNRP members planned to gather to host a commemoration ceremony for victims of the 1997 grenade attack.
Police officials stand guard yesterday at Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum park where CNRP members planned to gather to host a commemoration ceremony for victims of the 1997 grenade attack. Hong Menea

CNRP event blocked by armed cops, guards

A small gathering of Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers and senators were prevented from conducting a religious ceremony at Wat Botum Park in Phnom Penh yesterday by around 100 security personnel, a day after City Hall insisted such ceremonies be restricted to pagodas.

Opposition officials attempted to conduct a Pchum Ben ceremony for the victims of the 1997 grenade attack near the Royal Palace and Ministry of Justice, but were prevented from reaching the park by armed police personnel and Daun Penh security guards.

Around three dozen security guards were stationed along the perimeter of the park, with armed police personnel and plainclothes officers gathered around the Wat Botum pagoda.

Mu Sochua, CNRP lawmaker and deputy president, said seven lawmakers and two senators were stopped near the pagoda and informed they couldn’t proceed any further. Instead, the group chose to pray inside the pagoda grounds.

“The plan was to have the ceremony at the stupa [in the park],” she said. “But I think they would have used violence. They told us so.”

Sochua said normally in such situations there was room for negotiations with local authorities, but that in this case the police did not budge.

City Hall spokesman Meth Measpheakdey on Tuesday did not cite a law in denying permission for the event, but simply said Pchum Ben ceremonies were supposed to be held in pagodas.