City Hall yesterday approved a December 10 gathering at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in observance of International Human Rights Day, but nixed an appeal from civil society groups to hold a march starting at the Olympic Stadium.
After meeting with NGO representatives yesterday, the municipality will seek permission from the Ministry of Interior for a shorter, alternate march route from the riverside to Freedom Park for the rally, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said yesterday.
Despite City Hall’s allowance of a Human Rights Day event at Freedom Park, the decision to prohibit marches in the city came much to the chagrin of civil society representatives.
“We are deeply disappointed with the authorities banning us from marching on the pretext of causing traffic jams,” Suon Bunsak, secretary general of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), said after the meeting. “But we will have some marches [elsewhere] and hold the event at the Freedom Park.”
Some 5,000 people previously planned to march from the Olympic Stadium to Freedom Park on December 10, Bunsak said yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Ratanakkiri province, Human Rights Day began last night with ethnic dancing, speeches from monks and other events to promote freedom of expression and an end to government impunity, said Chev Sophea, provincial coordinator at rights group Licadho.
Friends of December 10, a group of organisers which includes members of NGOs such as Licadho, plans to hold the Ratanakkiri celebration until Friday, when they will march to Kampong Cham and meet up with another group of participants and begin walking to the capital, Sophea said.
However, outside obstacles, including the abbot of a Kampong Cham pagoda refusing to let participants sleep there, remain in their way, Bunsak said.