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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Governor bans NGO events

Villagers protest against CNRP leader Kem Sokha in Ratanakkiri province in May
Villagers protest against CNRP leader Kem Sokha in Ratanakkiri province in May. Provincial governor Pao Ham Pan issued a letter last week asking all citizens to halt protests during election season. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Governor bans NGO events

The Ratanakkiri provincial governor has told all officials and citizens in the province not to participate in civil society events during the upcoming campaign and election period.

In a letter dated June 13 and obtained by the Post yesterday, provincial governor Pao Ham Pan asks NGOs not to schedule events between June 27 and July 28 because public officials need to focus on organising and overseeing the elections.

“Our hall does not allow any participation from local town, district, commune or village authorities and from citizens in any press conference, meeting or study tour held by any NGO because it is the campaign and election days, so authorities need time to manage their work and

citizens need an opportunity to use their political rights,” the letter says.

Clarifying the letter’s contents yesterday, governor Ham Pan said that NGOs would not be punished for failing to heed the letter, which he said was distributed to several organisations earlier in the month.

“It’s an informatory letter, not a law, so it is not a case of violating rights,” he said. “It is aimed at easing the election process.”

“The commune chief is the one who has to sign voters’ identification letters and distribute information tickets to citizens. When they are away and busy at events, who is responsible for that?” he said.

Chhay Thy, coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that his organisation had not received the letter from the provincial hall but he had read it yesterday after obtaining it from another NGO and found it to be unconstitutional.

“People have a right to participate in meetings and any events, and our constitution does not stop people from doing so during the election time,” he said.

Adhoc would continue to organise meetings with the province’s villagers and authorities in the next month, he said.

National Election Committee secretary general Tep Nytha said he was not aware of the letter and that he would contact Ham Pan to clarify the situation.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JUSTINE DRENNAN

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