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Tuesday September 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday September 24, 2013 MYT 6:51:28 AM
Parliament in session: King Norodom greeting new parliamentarians during the first parliament meeting at the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh. — AFP
PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-ruling party pushed ahead with the formation of a government despite an opposition boycott of parliament and mass protests over its disputed election win.
Anti-riot police were deployed near the National Assembly following weeks of political turmoil that has at times descended into violence in one of the biggest challenges to Hun Sen’s nearly three decades in power.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) refused to take its seats yesterday for the opening session of the lower house, warning that the kingdom was sliding towards “dictatorship”.
Despite the boycott, King Norodom Sihamoni asked Hun Sen to form a new government, which must be approved by a majority of the newly elected lawmakers in a vote expected to take place today.
The CNRP, which is demanding an independent investigation into the contested July elections, decried what it described as a “one-party parliament”.
“It totally contradicts the principle of democracy, freedom and multi-party pluralism and is bringing Cambodia toward dictatorship again,” it warned.
Hun Sen said he would “serve the nation and the people for greater prosperity and progress” in a letter to thank the king for his support.
According to official results of the July polls, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 seats against 55 for the CNRP.
The opposition has rejected the tally, alleging widespread vote irregularities.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters joined three days of demonstrations in the capital earlier this month that saw one protester shot dead and several wounded as security forces clashed with a stone-throwing crowd.
Rights groups accused the security forces of firing live ammunition – an allegation denied by the authorities.
Activists also accused dozens of police and thugs in civilian clothing of launching a violent crackdown on a peaceful vigil at a pagoda in the capital late on Sunday using electric batons and slingshots.
Nine demonstrators as well as several foreign and local journalists were injured, witnesses said.
“They treated us like animals,” prominent land rights activist Tep Vanny told AFP.
The police action came after military police on Friday expelled a pro-opposition Cambodian prince – the king’s cousin – from the same pagoda, where he was holding a hunger strike demanding “justice for voters”.
Hun Sen, who suffered his worst poll result in 15 years in July, last week agreed to find a peaceful solution to the dispute in talks with his main rival Sam Rainsy.
However, he has ruled out an independent probe. — AFP
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