Protests prompt curfew in capital of Cambodia

December 23, 1991|By New York Times News Service

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The government imposed a nighttime curfew in Phnom Penh yesterday in an effort to prevent further unrest after violent street protests swept the capital Saturday night.

At least three people were killed and more than 25 injured in clashes Saturday night following a week of demonstrations, the first in more than 16 years, that seemed chiefly directed at widespread government corruption.

The government, however, charged that the Khmer Rouge guerrilla group had provoked the actions as part of an "armed insurrection with political aims."

The military sealed off most of the city center until late yesterday afternoon, and bursts of automatic weapons fire could be heard downtown. But no more injuries were reported, and there was apparently a lull in the demonstrations.

By yesterday afternoon, much of the city was back to normal, apart from the presence of troops at major intersections.

At a briefing for foreign reporters, Cambodia's foreign minister, Hor Namhong, said the demonstrators "wanted to create instability for the government" and sought to "prevent the implementation of the Paris peace accord" signed in October.

But he offered no evidence, and diplomats and others suggested that the Vietnam-backed government of Prime Minister Hun Sen was attempting to lay the blame on the Khmer Rouge as the various factions that have battled in the Cambodian civil war maneuver for advantage.

Hor Namhong said yesterday that three people had been killed in the overnight fighting, including one policeman. But hospital reports suggested the figure could be higher.

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