A scheduled meeting at a hotel between opposition leader Kem Sokha and a group of opposition commune chiefs and councillors was blocked yesterday by Kampong Chhnang Governor Chhour Chandoeun, who contended the party needed approval from the Ministry of Interior, even though no law requires such permission.
In a letter last Wednesday, the party informed the governor of the workshop scheduled for yesterday afternoon at the Raksmey Sokha New York Hotel in Kampong Chhnang district.
The workshop was purportedly aimed at strengthening commune management.
But in a letter on Friday, Chandoeun denied permission because the Cambodia National Rescue Party had no approval from the national level.
“They should request [approval] through the . . . Ministry of Interior, so when I get their consent I can approve it,” he said yesterday.
Chandoeun cited the fact that the workshop would be discussing matters at the commune level as justification for the Interior Ministry’s involvement.
However, the Law on Commune/Sangkat Administration does not require a particular party to request permission from the ministry to hold capacity-building trainings with commune chiefs and commune council members.
Keo Tha, provincial CNRP executive committee chief, said the party would still hold the training today, though it would do so at its headquarters with just half of the original 250 attendees.
After Chandoeun blocked the workshop, the hotel owner allegedly changed his mind about renting the venue to the opposition.
“We regret the provincial governor’s decision because we just want to improve the capacity of our staff,” Tha said by phone yesterday. “They are very [much] restricting our work now.”
Elsewhere, a workshop organised by rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri province and scheduled for this Friday was also banned. Pen Bonnar, a senior land and natural resources investigator at Adhoc, said Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Thorn Savorn forbade the gathering.
He said Savorn had been invited to speak at the workshop, but had declined to participate.
“Then the governor did not allow us to have the workshop,” he said, adding there was a meeting today with the governor to further discuss the issue.
“We continue to advocate [with] the provincial governor,” he said.
Savorn couldn’t be reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro