Prince ends poll protest after raid

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 4:32am

A Cambodian prince said yesterday that he had ended a hunger strike over disputed polls after military police expelled him from a pagoda where he was holding the protest.

Prince Sisowath Thomico - the cousin of King Norodom Sihamoni and a senior member of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) - said 400 police in riot gear forced him to end his protest in the capital Phnom Penh on Friday.

"There were about 20 people and eight monks with me ... but the authorities were concerned that the hunger strike would become bigger, so they cracked down on it," he said.

Cambodia has been locked in a political crisis since July elections returned strongman premier Hun Sen to power, despite widespread allegations by the opposition of voter fraud. The ruling Cambodian People's Party won 68 seats against 55 for the CNRP in the poll, according to official results.

The CNRP has rejected the tally and has warned it will boycott the opening of parliament unless alleged regularities are addressed. Military police spokesman Kheng Tito confirmed authorities had stepped in to end the prince's hunger strike, saying the protest had turned into an illegal rally.

He added the authorities feared protests could turn violent ahead of the opening of parliament tomorrow and confirmed that police were deployed outside the royal palace yesterday in the centre of the capital as dozens of CNRP protesters gathered peacefully.

The deployment was "to ban any rally from the public," he said, ahead of the opening of the parliament.