Bat Dei Ti Bei: Third Hands
On 20 December 2013, after the session of the half-baked assembly, PM Hun Sen had given a press conference on current political stalemate. Among other things, he warned his critical opponents of the “Third Hands”. At that time, CNRP was holding its permanent mass demonstration at Freedom Park or Democracy Park. Long term observers feared of any use of violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. In the past, when he warned something, the warning mostly came true. It looks like that he had “magic mouth”.
The CNRP was still holding the daily demonstrations and marched through the city. Their demands were “Independent investigation committee on elections fraud”, “new elections” and finally “Hun Sen must go”. It attracted more and more people when the six unions and garment’s workers also declared general strikes to demand for salary increase from $91 to $160. The demonstrations and the strikes caused chaotic traffic to the city which already experienced bad traffic, especially during the rush hours. The strikes went on to provinces such as Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh. The workers started to block the national roads # 2, # 4, # 5, # 6 etc. Even, the streets in front of the Ministry of Labor and the Council of Ministers were cut off by the workers to put more pressure on the government. The situation was deteriorating every day.
Then, the bloodshed: the military polices, the bodyguard’ s units and the special force (Para-shoot troop Regiment 911) were used to crack down the strikes on 2-3.01.14 where 5 workers died, 40 injured and 23 detained in put in jail at the border to Vietnam (about 200K from Phnom Penh). The fact that they did not inform the public the whereabouts of the 23 detainees after the arrest and one week later it became known is due to the fear that mass protests could emerge again in Phnom Penh, if these detainees were put in jails in the capital. The crackdown was used as pretext to ban all demonstration and public gathering and to clear the Freedom Park, which was still occupied by peaceful demonstrators. Supported polices and military polices, plainclothes officials, equipped batons, iron sticks; marked by red ribbons were deployed to demolish anything standing there and push the sit-in demonstrators out of the park. The municipality went on to even ban any gathering more than 10 people in the public. Then, the ruling party has to celebrate its 35th anniversary of 7 January. They banned others, but organized own mass gathering with heavy police and military police’ s protection. The event was organized in a rush tempo and was lasting only about one hour. It was really a farce for the ruling party that they could not organize this event more than just symbolic.
Currently, the third hands are being used to threaten and intimidate any planned CNRP’s gathering. A meeting in Kandal province was intended to begin at 2 pm on 22 January, 2014. But the night before around 2,000 military, polices and “plainclothes civilians” were organized to stay in the pagoda close to the venue where Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha are going to speak to their supporters. Though, they were not allowed to the meeting, some of them pushed themselves to the CNRP’s crowd and intended to create violence. The meeting was forced to cancel by CNRP’s leaders on the spot, because they did not want to fall into the traps of Hun Sen of “inciting violence” and arrest them.
However, during a recent three and half hours meeting with UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Surya Subedi, PM gave assurance that “he will not arrest the two leaders, because he wants to keep the door open for dialogue and possible negotiation”. Subedi was often in Phnom Penh, but rarely was granted any meeting with Hun Sen.