Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Freedom Park off-limits: city

Freedom Park off-limits: city

Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters and garment workers gather in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park
Cambodia National Rescue Party supporters and garment workers gather in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park during a demonstration in December. Hong Menea

Freedom Park off-limits: city

Freedom Park will remain off limits indefinitely for protesters, authorities said yesterday, despite Prime Minister Hun Sen suggesting last month that a ban on public assembly was being lifted.

Pich Saroeun, chief of Russey Keo district’s Chroy Changva commune, said Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong had announced during a road inauguration in his commune that he was placing a “temporary” ban on gatherings at the park.

The governor, Saroeun added, had given no firm indication of when that ban would be lifted, other than to say it would not be before investigations into the deadly violence of early January and other clashes were finished.

“The governor decided to temporarily ban strikes or gatherings at Freedom Park because what they did last time seemed against the law,” he said. “We do not know when the ban will be lifted, but it won’t be in place forever.”

Socheatvong could not be reached for comment.

Groups wanting to protest or gather could seek permission from the authorities, who would organise a venue for them elsewhere, Saroeun added.

“The governor appeals … to everybody to understand that this ban does not mean he discriminates against all gatherings – we respect and abide by the law.”

Since the return to the country of opposition leader Sam Rainsy last July, the Cambodia National Rescue Party has held regular rallies at Freedom Park, some of which have drawn more than 10,000 people and involved opposition supporters sleeping there overnight.

After the CNRP began daily rallies at the park in December – events that attracted many garment workers – the authorities violently cracked down on a gathering on January 4, driving supporters out and banning all public
assembly.

In a speech on February 25, Hun Sen suggested the ban would be lifted and that his supporters might also demonstrate in Freedom Park – possibly with a brick wall or barbed-wire fence between them and opposition supporters.

Am Sam Ath, technical advisor for rights group Licadho, said the latest ban was effectively an attack on a constitutional right.

“I think this ban will affect the rights and freedoms of citizens and limit democracy in Cambodia,” he said. “I want the government and City Hall to reconsider this ban.”

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) and the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said the ban would result only in protesters spending more time on the streets.

“I think it’s better for protesters if they stay in only one place such as Freedom Park,” he said. “But actually, protesters and citizens want to gather in front of the institutes that can help them – such as the Supreme Court and the National Assembly.”

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • Delta spreading in Kingdom

    Cambodia has so far detected more than 200 cases of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant, with 109 found on July 31 and August 1. The Ministry of Health has expressed deep concerns that the variant may have already reached communities and be spreading as some of the cases

  • US' Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive

    The first batch of 455,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the US touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 30. They are part of the total 1,060,100 doses the US has pledged to provide to Cambodia through the World Health Organisation-led (

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four