Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights Day events in capital violence-free

Rights Day events in capital violence-free

Protesters march in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to commemorate Human Rights Day on Saturday. LICADHO
Protesters march in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to commemorate Human Rights Day on Saturday. LICADHO

Rights Day events in capital violence-free

Fears of violence during International Human Rights Day celebrations on Saturday proved unfounded as Phnom Penh City Hall eased up on its blanket ban on public celebrations of the day at the last minute.

Since October 31, civil society groups had lodged multiple requests with the municipality to hold gatherings on December 10. Each of them were rejected, with City Hall suggesting they hold celebrations at NGO offices or rent a private space.

Prom Sophal, secretary-general of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC), said yesterday that authorities had briefly granted permission for the event on December 8, but revoked it within the space of an afternoon.

The following day, CHRAC called a meeting in which its members resolved to hold a public event regardless and notified the municipality, Sophal said, adding that on Saturday, he arrived at Freedom Park to find it full of armed police.

“I did not think they would allow us to do an event there,” he said, adding that the majority of the police left shortly after. “Later on, a police officer went to the centre of Freedom Park . . . I asked him, ‘Will you allow us to hold the Human Rights Day Event here?’ And he said, ‘No problem, we’ll allow you to do the event, but the municipality won’t allow you to do much, just in Freedom Park’.”

Municipal police chief Choun Sovann could not be reached for comment. However, City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said the fact Saturday’s event took place did not reflect a softening of City Hall’s position.

“They did not respect City Hall’s announcement that we did not allow them to hold an event. However, they could still do it [at Freedom Park], but they did not march,” Chanyada said. “This showed that we used a compromise approach. It does not mean our letter was ineffective.”

CHRAC’s Sophal estimated that between 3,000 and 3,500 people eventually gathered in Freedom Park, although rights group Licadho pegged the total attendees at closer to 1,000.

Wan-Hea Lee, of the UN’s human rights office, said in an email yesterday that she believed it was “direct contact between the organizers and the authorities that ultimately led to a good outcome”.

Licadho estimated that some 11,000 people took part in events around the country last week, but noted that authorities in Kampot prevented three planned events.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all