Clashes as Cambodia opposition rally keeps heat on Hun Sen
A Cambodian protester falls down to the ground after being hit by a water cannon during clashes at a demonstration in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2013. Police fired smoke grenades, tear gas and water cannon at Cambodian opposition supporters on Sunday, a rights group said, as protesters massed in the capital in a renewed bid to overturn premier Hun Sen's disputed election win.
The clash, which occurred near the Royal Palace as a group of around 200 protesters tried to storm a police barricade, has heightened tensions as an estimated 20,000 demonstrators gather in Phnom Penh to press for an independent probe into alleged massive voter fraud.
The planned three-day rally in the city's Democracy Park follows a rare meeting between Cambodian national Rescue Party opposition chief Sam Rainsy and the strongman prime minister to break the political paralysis gripping the kingdom since July's poll.
"Today's clash... goes to show that tensions are running extremely high and that there is a risk of elevated violence over the next two days," Ou Virak, president of the prominent Cambodian Center for Human Rights said in a statement.
The group confirmed earlier eyewitness reports that authorities deployed tear gas, smoke bombs and water cannon to break up the crowd near the palace, adding three protesters and one policeman were injured without giving further details.
Ou Virak urged the ruling Cambodian People's Party -- which was officially awarded 68 seats to the opposition's 55 -- "to come to a fair resolution of this current political deadlock".
The incident took place around two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the park. Local media later reported rocks were briefly thrown at a theatre near the protest site.
A CNRP spokesman played down the role of party supporters in the clashes.
"It is not the CNRP business. Those who created the problem have to take responsibility," party spokesman Yim Sovann said, without giving details.
As dusk fell thousands of supporters defied a government order to disperse from park.
Yim Sovann said the party had asked supporters to leave and return on Monday morning, but many who had travelled to Phnom Penh from the provinces had nowhere else to go overnight.
Earlier, Rainsy addressed the colourful rally.
"Brothers, this is an important mission to rescue the nation," Rainsy told demonstrators, many of whom held banners reading 'my vote, my nation' and 'where is my vote?'.
Rainsy called for a recount or new vote and stated that opposition lawmakers will not attend the opening of the parliament on September 23.
But "there will be no talks on power sharing" he warned, without the alleged election irregularities being cleared up.
Saturday's meeting between Rainsy and Hun Sen, hosted by King Norodom Sihamoni, made limited progress towards ending the stalemate but the opposition leader said he will still attend new talks on Monday with the CPP.
Anti-riot and military police were deployed at key locations in Phnom Penh on Sunday, with key roads in the centre of the city blocked.
Ahead of the rally the government set a limit on the number of protesters at 10,000 and said it must finish by around 6pm local time (1100GMT).
But protesters remained defiant, vowing to stay in the park until their demands are met.
"Our votes were robbed," said 56-year-old Srin Chea, who travelled from southern Kandal province.
"I am angry. I want justice. I am not afraid of death."
So far the CNRP's efforts to challenge the outcome have failed and it has run out of formal options in its bid to overturn Hun Sen's victory.
Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and has vowed to rule until he is 74.
A former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and oversaw Cambodia's rise from the ashes of war, his government is regularly accused of ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.
MORE REGIONAL NEWS
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
Nelson Mandela's funeral cortege is taken to the seat of the South African government in Pretoria, where his remains will lie in state for t... More Nelson Mandela's funeral cortege is taken to the seat of the South African government in Pretoria, where his remains will lie in state for three days.Duration:00:41
Date 4 mins ago, Duration 0:40, Views 0