Sunday, September 15, 2013

CNRP Demonstration v.2: Day 1

Flashing '7' at Freedom Park

Today was the first day of the CNRP's planned multi-day mass demonstration protesting the election results, demanding justice and an independent investigation of the election results. The demonstration in Phnom Penh was based out of Freedom Park, but unlike the previous demonstration, Freedom Park was set up for a multi-day event with people staying the night, and protestors marched outside the Freedom Park area. In my estimation there were at least 25,000 people in the Freedom Park area midday today, perhaps significantly more, and more protestors were on the riverfront and in other areas.

Police presence around the city was much heavier today than it was for the last demonstration. Roads were blocked with concertina wire blockades across town making travel difficult, and PMs (gendarmes) and riot police in full gear were visibly out in significant force. There was at least one violent confrontation between police and protestors during the day today, taking place on the riverfront (Sisowath Quay) in front of Wat Ounalom. Protestors broke through street barricades and police fired smoke grenades and shot water cannons to drive protestors back.

A few photos from today:

Crowd cheers speaker at Freedom Park. 

In the days before the protest was to begin, the CNRP prepared Freedom Park for protests and for overnight campers, erecting tent roofs along the sides, taping off walkways through the park, bringing in bottled water, etc. This video of Freedom Park was taken in the mid-late afternoon, the day before the protest.

This video was taken at Freedom Park during the afternoon today, standing in about the same place as I did for the video above that I took yesterday. Unfortunately I seem to have rotated the opposite direction.

Protestors at Freedom Park, mid-afternoon.

 Some shops, especially those near the Freedom Park area and on the riverfront, remained closed and barred in anticipation of possible violence.

Meanwhile down at the riverfront, things weren't going quite as peacefully. There had been a stand-off between police and protestors for much of the afternoon. Earlier the police had fired smoke grenades and water cannons to disperse protestors, but the stand-off continued. Here demonstrators carry street barricades and throw them in the river.

One of the demonstrators pointed out this (spent?) smoke grenade sitting on the ground amongst the protestors, fired earlier by the police. He made it a point to tell me "it is from Vietnam," which, upon inspection of the label, it clearly was.

Onlookers climb the Techo statue on the riverfront to get a better view of the standoff between protestors and the police.

Riot police stand the line on Sisowath Quay near the FCC, several deep, ready to confront protestors that they are facing. Behind them are several ranks of PMs, waiting to back them up.

The standoff.

Protestors facing police from the other side of the barbed wire barricade. In an amazing display of non-violent protest technique, as the protestors grew angrier and closer to the barbwire yelling at the police, protest organizers linked arms in front of the protestors and gently (and successfully) ushered them back away from the barbed wire line and confrontation, calming them a bit as well. 

On the riverfront, speaking though a megaphone at the police.

Sam Rainsy arrives on the riverfront and manages to calm his people and get the police to relax and remove the barricade, essentially diffusing the stand-off.

At Freedom Park, around 8:00PM. Most of the protestors from Phnom Penh had gone home, leaving the Park mostly empty. A couple/few thousand people, most from the countryside, remained and will spend the night at the Park. It was drizzling a bit when I was there and people clustered under the tented areas, eating dinner and socializing. Some, including this fellow, were working hard to keep political spirits high.

Food vendor and tent at Freedom Park.

Ready for the night in Freedom Park.

Breaking news from the late evening today: There are reliable reports that a protestor was killed and others wounded this evening in a confrontation with police at the Kbal Thnal overpass in southern Phnom Penh.


  1. Great reporting - Thanks for this!

  2. Certainly looked like a peaceful demonstration. The contract between the families with kids protesting and the barbarians dressed in helmets and shields is telling. A bit to much testosterone on the barbarian side of the barbed wire.