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Street protests against Cambodia's PM gather strength

Hun Sen snubs resignation calls: anger unabated over 'rigged' July election

Street protests against Cambodia's PM gather strength

Picture: AFP Photo/STR

AFP, Phnom Penh

December 23, 2013

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday rejected opposition calls for him to step down after thousands of protesters massed in the capital calling for fresh elections.

The strongman leader said that there would be "no re-election", dismissing opposition allegations that the July election was tainted by vote rigging.

An estimated 10,000 protesters, many waving Cambodian flags and banners, massed in a park in the capital Phnom Penh on Sunday, calling for another vote and for Hun Sen's resignation.

It was the first such demand from the demonstrators, with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) party previously asking for an independent probe into the polls that extended Hun Sen's nearly three-decade rule.

A few thousand demonstrators, many carrying banners reading "Hun Sen must step down!", have marched through the capital every day this week to press the Cambodian leader to meet their demands, joined by opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The opposition party, which has boycotted parliament since the polls, has threatened to block all major roads to Phnom Penh next month unless the government meets it demands.

Hun Sen, who has rejected an inquiry into the elections, told reporters on Friday that the Cambodian constitution did not allow the prime minister to dissolve the parliament before its five-year mandate.

He warned that the government would take legal measures in response to any "illegal actions" that would cause instability in the country.

"We cannot accept any actions that would involve the destruction of national security," Hun Sen said.

In the aftermath of the disputed July poll, opposition supporters took to the streets in demonstrations that left one protester dead and several injured, after security forces clashed with a stone-throwing crowd.

Parliament in late September approved a new five-year term for Hun Sen, despite the absence of opposition MPs, in a move decried by the CNRP as a "constitutional coup".

But some observers say the opposition protests are now largely symbolic, with months passing since the elections while Hun Sen remains firmly in charge.

Hun Sen -- a 61-year-old former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and oversaw Cambodia's rise from the ashes of war -- has ruled for 28 years, and has vowed to continue until he is 74. AFP

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