Some 200 human rights activists from across the country gathered in Phnom Penh yesterday to trade stories of intimidation – both subtle and overt – they had faced in their line of work and to learn tips on how best to address such situations.
“Sometimes authorities incite the activists’ families to make conflict and split them apart. We are always victimised,” Svay Phoeun, a Kouy ethnic minority activist from Preah Vihear province, said at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights workshop.
“Complaints were falsified when we protest anything, and we are charged and sent to prison; sometimes we are threatened that we will be hurt if we still protest,” said Mom Soken, an activist focusing on land rights in Kratie province’s Snuol district.
The rights group released a re-published version of an 82-page book covering applicable laws and showing activists how to reduce their risks and fight back against intimidation.
Spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said there was no policy to go after protesters, but also said demonstrations should have an appropriate social agenda.
According to the annual report of rights group Adhoc, crackdowns on peaceful protests, housing rights activists and land activists have grown precipitously in the past year. Two hundred and thirty-two villagers were arrested in relation to housing and land issues, up 144 per cent from the previous year.