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City rejects May Day location

Workers and labour activists gather at Freedom Park last year to take part in a march through Phnom Penh to mark International Labour Day
Workers and labour activists gather at Freedom Park last year to take part in a march through Phnom Penh to mark International Labour Day. Heng Chivoan

City rejects May Day location

Phnom Penh municipal authorities has rejected a request from more than 10 unions to hold an International Labour Day event at Freedom Park on May 1, but the unionists have said that will not stop them from marking the occasion.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said yesterday that authorities would not allow the unions to hold the event at Freedom Park – the capital’s designated protest space, which has been off limits to demonstrators since the government simultaneously cracked down on garment sector and opposition party protests in early January. He appealed to the groups to use their own offices instead.

“We do not agree with their request to celebrate International Labour Day at Freedom Park, because there are many organisations and institutes that want to use that place as well that we have refused,” Dimanche said, adding that the city had conveyed that message to unions in a meeting on Thursday.

“We told them to do it at their own offices, a private place or their factories. But we will not allow them to do it at a public place and we have temporarily banned the use of Freedom Park,” he said.

The unions’ request would now be passed on to the Ministry of Interior.

Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said yesterday, however, union leaders were standing firm on holding their event at the park.

“We are still keeping our stance to do [this] at Freedom Park on International Labour Day, and our unions will have another meeting again before making a final decision,”
she said.

In previous years, labour unions had been allowed to celebrate the occasion at public places, including Freedom Park, Sophorn noted.

“Our rights and freedoms are crumbling [at this time], because as we know, on previous occasions, the government has allowed us to do or [express] our rights at public places . . . But this year is very different,” she said.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said yesterday that the unions had planned to march from Freedom Park to the headquarters of the Cambodian People’s Party and Cambodia National Rescue Party, respectively.

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