Cambodian Opposition Leader Meets PM Hun Sen After Protests Turn Deadly

One person reportedly killed and several others wounded as crowds attempt to remove police barricades in the capital Phnom Penh

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Thomas Cristofoletti / Reuters

A Cambodian protester gestures between flames during clashes with security forces in Phnom Penh on Sept. 15, 2013

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy held crisis talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday in the wake of Sunday’s clashes in the capital Phnom Penh that led to one death and several injuries.

The leader of the country’s main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Sam Rainsy is demanding an independent investigation into alleged voter irregularities in July polls that saw a victory for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

(MOREBack From Exile, Cambodia’s Opposition Leader Brings Thousands Onto the Streets)

The CNRP has been organizing protests since the country’s Constitutional Council confirmed on Sept. 4 that Hun Sen’s retention of the post he has held for 28 years despite widespread fears of electoral fraud.

In Phnom Penh on Sunday, angry crowds threw rocks at police who had blocked two key bridges across the Tonle Sap river. At around 8 p.m., demonstrators apparently attempted to tear down barricades, prompting tear gas and a volley of AK-47 fire over their heads from security forces. The Phnom Penh Post reports that a 29-year-old man was shot in the forehead at the Kbal Thnal overpass. Several other people were also treated for bullet wounds, according to human-rights groups.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets since Sept. 7 with little trouble reported. However, there was clearly a different mood on Sunday with water cannons, batons, tear gas and Tasers used by security forces.

According to Keo Phirum, a newly elected CNRP lawmaker for Kratie province, the local police are sympathetic with protesters and generally do not pose a threat, but trouble flares when auxiliary forces from other provinces are bused into the city.

“The police in Phnom Penh voted for the CNRP, but military police from outside are sometimes more violent as they don’t understand the people,” he told TIME from the protest site in Freedom Park on Monday morning.

(MORE: Cambodia Election Campaign Promises Little Change)

Official results for the July 28 elections saw the CCP claim victory over the CNRP by 68 to 55 National Assembly seats. By law, parliament has to convene within 60 days of the ballot, but Sam Rainsy has said that CNRP lawmakers would likely refuse to enter the legislature as part of their protest.

Their concerns have been echoed by independent advocacy groups. “Bias and unfairness in the electoral system, structural problems and allegations of widespread irregularities may have changed the result of a close election,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, calling for international aid donors to urge an independent investigation.

The CPP and its predecessors have dominated Cambodian politics since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, despite losing U.N.-administered elections in 1993. Polls in 1998, 2003 and 2008 were also widely condemned by impartial observers.

PHOTOS: The Rise and Fall of the Khmer Rouge

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