Cambodian officials on Wednesday said that the country has ended its ban on public demonstrations that was imposed last month after police opened fire on protesting textile workers. According to Interior Ministry [official website, in Khmer] spokesman Khieu Sopheak, those wishing to stage protests will still have to seek permission [AFP report] from local authorities despite the ban being lifted. In a statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen [NYT archive, JURIST news archive] warned [Phnom Penh Post report] that the lifting of the ban gave his own supporters the right to protest as well, and that future anti-government rallies would be met by rallies held by pro-government support groups. Recent demonstrations [press release] have been the combined efforts of opposition groups protesting the allegedly rigged election of Hun Sen last year, as well as garment workers demanding higher wages.
The political atmosphere in Cambodia has been tense since last year's elections. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Cambodian government to take steps to stop the threats and intimidation of garment factory workers who are seeking to assert their labor rights through the formation of unions. In January the International Labour Organization (ILO) [official website] called for cooperation among all parties involved in escalating violence in Cambodia, demanding a release of detained union strikers and a government probe into anti-protest police tactics [JURIST report]. Earlier that month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged [JURIST report] Cambodian authorities to exercise restraint when dealing with protestors. Days beforehand, Cambodia banned rallies and marches [Al Jazeera report] in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, and authorities removed more than 1,000 anti-government protesters [BBC report] from the capital the same day. Phnom Penh's governor Pa Socheatvong further stated that until "public order is restored to normal," the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party would not be permitted to hold demonstrations [AFP report].