Local authorities paid an “intimidating” visit to a youth group holding a private political discussion in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district yesterday.
The discussion on the topic “The Political Heat in Cambodia” was intended to focus on recent political developments in the Kingdom, and featured as speakers two political party members, political blogger Ou Ritthy and Chak Sopheap, the executive director of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights.
Two men, who identified themselves as district officials but would not give their names, arrived at the beginning of the event to speak with organisers and returned during a panel discussion demanding the names of speakers and event fliers, according to Sopheap.
After the discussion ended, seven more officials arrived, identifying themselves first as “journalists” and then as commune authorities. They informed organisers that they should have sought approval for the event and topic, and inquired about the group’s activities, according to a group member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Again, the authorities refused give their names.
The organiser added that authorities had never appeared at prior events. “It was an internal discussion . . . We aren’t doing anything wrong,” he said.
CCHR’s Sopheap said the event “would not even fall in the scope of the peaceful assembly law . . . It is groundless, intimidating and [contradicts] civil and political rights.”
Pang Lida, deputy governor of Tuol Kork, said authorities attended to ask if organisers asked permission from the office where the discussion was held.
“If you enter someone’s house, you have to ask permission,” he said.
Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda