Cambodian prince ends hunger strike over poll dispute

A Cambodian prince said Saturday he has ended a hunger strike over disputed polls after military police expelled him from a pagoda where he was holding the protest fearing it would snowball.

Prince Sisowath Thomico -- the cousin of King Norodom Sihamoni and a senior member of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) -- said four hundred police in riot gear forced him to end his hunger strike in the capital Phnom Penh late Friday.

"There were about 20 people and eight monks with me... but the authorites were concerned that the hunger strike would become bigger, so they cracked down on it," he told AFP.

"I have ended it," he said, adding the police were not violent.

Cambodia has been locked in a political crisis since July elections returned strongman premier Hun Sen to power, despite widespread allegations by the opposition of voter fraud.

According to official results of the July election, the ruling Cambodian People's Party won 68 seats against 55 for the CNRP.

The CNRP has rejected the tally and has warned it will boycott the opening of parliament unless the irregularities are addressed.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito confirmed authorities stepped in to end the prince's hunger strike, saying the protest had turned into an illegal rally.

He added the authorities feared protests could turn violent ahead of the opening of parliament on Monday and confirmed that police were deployed Saturday outside the royal palace in the centre of the capital as dozens of CNRP protesters gathered peacefully.

The deployment was "to ban any rally from the public," he said, ahead of the opening of the parliament.

Violent clashes erupted in Phnom Penh last Sunday on the fringes of a mass demonstration that drew an estimated 20,000 opposition supporters demanding a probe into the alleged voter fraud.

The poll results were Hun Sen's worst for 15 years but while experts agree they were a blow to the 61-year-old premier, they see no signs he will give up power soon.