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Cambodia mulling outcome of arrest of opposition deputy

Cambodia mulling outcome of arrest of opposition deputy
Opposition insists any mass demonstrations will be peaceful, after ministry spokesman spoke of destabilization concerns

By Lauren Crothers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AA) – Cambodia’s opposition party insisted Friday that any mass demonstrations in the event of the arrest of its deputy leader would be strictly peaceful, after a senior government figure said officials were mulling whether execution of the warrant would destabilize society.

The Cambodia Daily reported Friday that Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak had given a radio interview, in which he said that authorities are considering the possible outcome of the arrest of Kem Sokha.

The acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) is wanted for questioning over an extra-marital affair.

Sopheak had said authorities would not execute the arrest warrant if doing so could “cause blood to flow, clashes or acts of violence.”

Sopheak could not be reached Friday.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann told Anadolu Agency on Friday that Sokha, who is still holed up at the party’s headquarters, is doing well.

He has been sequestered there ever since police tried, and failed, to arrest him May 26.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has since charged Sokha -- who has parliamentary immunity -- with failing to appear for questioning.

The scandal came to light after a series of recorded telephone conversations were leaked in February.

Since then, five human rights defenders who were providing assistance to the mistress have been jailed ahead of a bribery trial.

The CNRP has warned repeatedly that Sokha’s arrest would result in mass demonstrations because it would be considered unconstitutional.

“He is still strong and encourages us and he doesn’t fear anything,” Sovann said.

The party is holding firm to its promise to stage mass protests if the warrant is executed, but Sovann told Anadolu Agency that there is no intention for them to be violent in any way.

“There is no violent [intent],” he said. “Mass demonstrations are possible, but only after his arrest. Peaceful mass demonstrations are possible.”

The last time the CNRP staged large protests, in the wake of the 2013 elections, they were met with heavy police presence.

In September of that year, a bystander was shot dead as party supporters attempted to cross a cordoned-off bridge on their way home.

source: News Feed
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