Thousands of supporters of Cambodia's main opposition party have rallied to demand an international inquiry into the recent general election, rejecting the victory claimed by long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, who shows no sign of stepping aside.

The rally on Tuesday headed by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was sparked after the credibility of last month's election was questioned, revealing widespread unhappniess with Sen's iron-fisted rule.

Sam Rainsy, the leader of the CNRP, who returned from exile to galvanise the campaign of the newly merged opposition for the July 28 poll, has already said he should be prime minister and told the crowd in a Phnom Penh park he rejected the idea of a coalition.

We won't get involved in the destruction of the nation with them ... we want [Hun Sen] to step down.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, referring to ruling party and PM

"We won't get involved in the destruction of the nation with them," he said, addressing a demand to Hun Sen: "We just want you to step down as soon as possible."

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won 68 seats and the CNRP 55. The CNRP says it won 63 and the CPP 60. The official result will not be announced until Thursday at the earliest.

The CNRP also claimed 1.3 million names were missing from electoral rolls and that Hun Sen's side stuffed ballot boxes with illegal votes.

Call for investigation

The allegations are being investigated by the National Election Committee, a state body seen as dominated by the CPP.

Sam Rainsy wants the United Nations and non-governmental bodies to take part, which the government has rejected.

"It is inconceivable to me that Hun Sen would allow any investigation that he couldn't control," said Carl Thayer, a Cambodia expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

"This election result will not be the end of Hun Sen for the next five years. But his pledge to say in office until he is in his seventies looks shaky."

Sam Rainsy told the large crowd that the people would no longer be intimidated and he promised more, bigger demonstrations.

Source: Reuters