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UN rights expert appeals for calm amid violence in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, July 16 (Xinhua) -- United Nations rights envoy for Cambodia Surya Subedi on Wednesday urged all sides to immediately exercise utmost calm and restraint in the wake of alarming reports of violence following opposition protests in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

"Democracy depends on respect, not violence," he said in a statement released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office to Cambodia. "I call in the strongest possible terms for all sides to exercise restraint."

The envoy's call came after a Tuesday protest, led by leaders of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) near the capital's Freedom Park, turned violent, resulting in more than 40 persons injured, mostly security guards.

At least six opposition party politicians -- five Members of Parliament (MPs)-elect and one party member-- have been arrested following the violent clash.

The arrested politicians are a prominent woman-lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua, her assistant Oeun Narith, and other four lawmakers- elect Keo Pearum, Men Sothavrin, Ho Vann, and Real Khemarin.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday afternoon charged them with insurrection and violence incitement, which could face between 20 and 30 years in jail if convicted, said a defense lawyer Ket Khy.

Keo Remy, Secretary of State of the Council of Ministers, on Wednesday accused those opposition MPs-elect of organizing a premeditated plot and leading their supporters to brutally attack local security personnel in an attempt to create chaotic situation.

He said at least 38 security personnel got injured including 22 were in critical condition and 3 others were being hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

However, CNRP's acting president Kem Sokha denied that his party's leaders incited protesters to commit violence and called for the release of those MPs-elect.

Clashes between security forces and CNRP's supporters have periodically happened since a parliamentary election in July last year. The poll results showed that the ruling Cambodian People's Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen won 68 parliamentary seats against 55 seats for the CNRP.

The CNRP has refused to accept the election outcome it says was marred by fraud, and has boycotted parliament and held many demonstrations to demand an electoral reform and an early election.

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