By Lauren Crothers
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AA) – Cambodian police barricaded a major route on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Monday to thwart opposition politicians from petitioning the King as authorities seek to arrest their party’s acting leader.
Supporters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have been gathering daily at its headquarters since police attempted -- but failed -- to arrest deputy president Kem Sokha on Thursday.
Sokha, who has parliamentary immunity, has ignored several summonses to appear in court to be grilled about an infidelity scandal that came to light in February after a series of telephone conversations were leaked.
Last week, after the failed arrest attempt, Sokha was charged over his refusal to appear for questioning in relation to the case.
By 2 p.m. (0700GMT) on Monday, a phalanx of heavily armed police officers and riot police were guarding a thick barricade that completely blocked access in and out of the city on one of its major arterial routes. The headquarters is on that route.
After a standoff, officials told opposition MPs that around 20 of their cars would be allowed to pass through the blockade, but in the end, only about seven were able to get through before it was closed off again.
Lawmakers Ho Vann and Yem Ponhearith were among a small group who were able to take boxes of paperwork and petitions to the Royal Palace, where they were met by a palace official who signed off on receiving the documents.
The scenes were largely reminiscent of those that dominated 2013 and 2014 when, in the wake of the July 2013 elections, government forces sought to crush dissent from both the political and labor sectors.
Monday’s attempted demonstration came a day after the government disseminated a video, prepared by its own human rights committee, that warned citizens against using their rights “in an anarchic way”.
It shows before and after footage of Syria, as well as what is supposed to be Libya but is actually a skyscraper scene of Singapore, while urging people to use their rights “properly.”
“The excessive use of rights will bring about destruction,” it says.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached.