Cambodia breaks up protest over alleged China military base

Protesters demonstrating in front of the US embassy in Cambodia on Friday (Oct 23, 2020). A smaller protest in front of the Chinese embassy was broken up by police officers. - AFP

PHNOM PENH, Oct 23 (Reuters): Cambodian security guards broke up a small protest on Friday near the Chinese embassy opposing alleged plans to boost Beijing's military presence in the country, as police detained some demonstrators for questioning.

After brief scuffles, city security guards carried three protesters to a nearby police pickup truck, according to live streaming by local media and Reuters witnesses.

"We reject the Chinese military presence in Cambodia," shouted one protester, waving a Cambodian flag, as a police officer with a loud hailer gave the group five minutes to disperse.

The Cambodian government has repeatedly denied reports that China had reached a secret deal to let it place forces at the Ream Naval Base, saying that hosting foreign forces would be against Cambodia's constitution.

Phnom Penh police spokesman San Sok Seyha said those detained had been taken in for questioning since the rally had not been given a permit.

"We need to protect the embassy and keep public order for all people," he said.

Earlier, police officers at the scene had told some journalists to delete pictures and video of the altercation, according to Reuters witnesses.

Friday's protest was part of a wider rally organised by the dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to mark the 29th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreement ending Cambodia's civil war, said CNRP's former vice president, Mu Sochua.

Cambodia, which is among Asia’s poorest nations, has been an important ally to China in recent years and has been accused of giving Beijing influence in return for economic support.

Cambodia has insisted its foreign and security policy is independent.

The CNRP was dissolved at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, which accused the party of plotting to take power with the help of Washington. The CNRP and the US embassy in Cambodia have denied the accusation.

The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to request for comment. - Reuters
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