Unions, NGOs and activists gathered today on the capital’s periphery in Meanchey district to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, after City Hall had refused their request to hold the event at Wat Botum park.
Meas Morkort, president of the Cambodian Women’s Movement Organisation, called on women to speak out and fight for their rights so they could contribute to building a developed society.
Organisers said nearly 2,000 people were in attendance, while about 10 district and commune police could be seen monitoring the event.
CWMO requested permission from City Hall last month to hold the rally publicly in cooperation with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, but Governor Kep Chuktema signed off an a letter rejecting their appeal.
Kep Chuktema declined to comment today.
Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said that choice reflected poorly on the government.
“We just want to hold the event at the public place, not to cause disturbance to public order,” he told The Post today.
“It’s a limit of their rights, especially women’s rights and children’s rights.”
Human Rights Watch slammed City Hall’s decision in a statement today.
“The government’s refusal to allow an International Women’s Day rally first seemed like a joke,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Cambodian government’s creeping dictatorial rule should be of real concern to the country’s donors.”
Women in prisons a concern
Among the 941 women incarcerated in the Kingdom at the end of 2010, 12 were pregnant and 47 of their children lived with them, the rights group Licadho said in a statement today.
The number of women and girls in prison increased 41 percent since 2007, raising health concerns, the group said.
“Overcrowding, poor cell ventilation, extreme heat and exposure to cigarette smoke place prisoners including children and pregnant women at risk of serious health conditions such as TB,” the report said.
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of Licadho, said during a visit to Prey Sar prison today that medical care is abysmal, food nutrition inadequate and water often contaminated.
“Unfortunately, many mothers have no other choice [but to] take their children to stay in prison with them,” she said.
Keo Lada, 33, has served about half of her two-year sentence for a drug-related conviction, and has a 75-day-old daughter who lives with her.
She said the conditions were challenging.
“I tried to correct myself so that I will not return to this difficult place again,” she said.
“I really pity my daughter. She opens her eyes and sees only the prison cell.”
Khlot Dara, director of CC2, said he had repaired an old building on the campus to make space for about 50 additional prisoners because of overcrowding.
“Even though it is overcrowded, they still have space for sleeping and the main problem is a lack of medicine,” he said.