Fresh protests in Cambodia over disputed poll

PHNOM PENH - Thousands of Cambodia opposition supporters staged a demonstration amid high security Wednesday over fiercely disputed elections that extended strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen's near three-decade rule, following bloody protests last month.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which is boycotting parliament over the controversial July polls and has demanded an independent investigation into allegations of electoral fraud, said the protest would last for three days.

"The mass non-violent demonstration... organised by CNRP is to demand justice for the people who are the voters regarding the election irregularities," the party, led by Sam Rainsy, said in a statement.

According to an AFP photographer, about 5,000 protesters joined the rally in central Phnom Penh, many with ribbons tied around their heads carrying slogans such as "Where is my vote?"; "We need a truth committee"; and "Long live democracy!".

"I am protesting to demand my vote back, they stole my vote. I want justice. If they do not return my vote, I will protest until the current government collapses," 72-year-old demonstrator Phay Math told AFP.

Thousands of riot police were deployed along the streets and at significant locations in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to meet the first major show of strength by the opposition since tens of thousands of its supporters joined three days of rallies in the capital last month.

Those demonstrations left one protester dead and several wounded after security forces clashed with a stone-throwing crowd.

Cambodia's parliament in late September approved a new five-year term for Hun Sen, despite the absence of Rainsy's party, in a move decried by the opposition as a "constitutional coup".

The opposition has said protesters will march on the United Nations human rights office in the capital on Wednesday afternoon to deliver a petition calling on the UN and foreign powers to intervene after the disputed polls.

They also plan to walk to a number of foreign embassies, including those of France, the United States, Britain and China to deliver their petition over the coming days.

Hun Sen - a 61-year-old former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and oversaw Cambodia's rise from the ashes of war - has ruled for 28 years and vowed to continue until he is 74.