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Cambodia protests rage for second day

Political rivals hold fresh crisis talks as thousands of people mass for second day over disputed poll results.

Last Modified: 16 Sep 2013 09:21
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Police used water cannon and teargas to break up the demonstrations that spilled beyond Freedom Park [EPA]

Thousands of protesters have re-gathered in Cambodia's capital, a day after one man was shot dead during clashes with police as thousands of demonstrators challenged a disputed election win by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Around 10,000 protesters gathered in Freedom Park in Phnom on Monday. Some had defied the authorities by camping there overnight.

Monday's protests happened while Hun Sen met opposition leader Sam Rainsy for talks, but the premier showed no sign of giving in to calls for an independent inquiry into the July 28 general election, which opponents say was rigged to ensure a continuation of Hun Sen's 28-year rule.

The meeting on Monday at the National Assembly was agreed to by the two men after King Norodom Sihamon on Saturday brought them face-to-face for the first time in years and urged them to end the political stalemate.

Officials said the two sides had agreed to look at how future general elections are held but the long-serving premier refused to give in to demands for an independent inquiry into the July 28 poll.

Prak Sokhonn, a senior official of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), told a briefing the two parties had agreed to respect King Norodom Sihamoni's call for calm. But the election had been decided and parliament would open as planned, he said.

"There won't be a delay ... This meeting of parliament will go ahead with or without the participation of the CNRP," he said, referring to Sam Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party.

The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) says it would have won had the vote been fair and has called for a boycott of parliament's first session September 23 unless an independent committee investigates claims of widespread voting irregularities.

Official results announced last weekend gave Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) 68 seats in the National Assembly and Sam Rainsy's party 55, a dramatic opposition increase from the 29 seats it won in the previous election.

Violent clashes

Protesters first clashed with riot police on Sunday in demonstrations, which marked one of the biggest challenges yet against the autocratic rule of Sen, who has been in power for nearly three decades.

Chan Soveth, a worker for human rights group Adhoc, said a man was shot in the head and died when CNRP supporters tried to move the barricades set up by the authorities in the Kbal Thnal Bridge area near their party headquarters.

He said the man was not a political protester but someone who lived in the area and was among a group of residents angry that they could not reach their homes.

Chan Soveth said he had visited five other people in hospital who had been shot.

"These bullets came from where the authorities were," he told Reuters.

National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said police had used only teargas, batons and smoke grenades and he could not say how the man died.

"I don't know how he was killed. We didn't use live bullets," he said.

The CNRP said in a statement on Monday it "strongly condemns the violent, brutal act of police who fired guns and beat people who were just travellers who tried to cross the bridge, leaving one dead, many injured and others detained".

Sunday's clashes turned violent when demonstrators moved away from the government-designated protest area of Freedom Park.

A group of about 200 people tried to dismantle a barricade of razor wire and roadblocks that had been erected along a river in eastern Phnom Penh to keep them away from the Royal Palace.

Police fired water cannons and then smoke grenades, and demonstrators responded with rocks, shoes and other objects.

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