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Human Rights Day marches gathering steam despite gov't obstacles

People beat drums and sing as they march along a road in Koh Kong yesterday during the lead up to International Human Rights Day.
People beat drums and sing as they march along a road in Koh Kong yesterday during the lead up to International Human Rights Day. LICADHO

Human Rights Day marches gathering steam despite gov't obstacles

Authorities in Siem Reap yesterday blocked a march celebrating International Human Rights Day (IHRD), as officials in Phnom Penh reiterated their threat to shut down a planned mass rally in the capital on Thursday.

As IHRD, officially on December 10, approaches, associated demonstrations across the Kingdom are gaining momentum.

Yesterday, rallies were held in five provinces – Koh Kong, Siem Reap, Takeo, Kratie and Svay Rieng.

In Siem Reap, 600 people hailing from 13 communities, many embroiled in land disputes, and organisations such as the Informal Economy Association, gathered in Slakram commune but were blocked by authorities as they tried to march to another location.

Chan Chamroeun, a provincial human rights observer for Adhoc in Siem Reap, expressed his disappointment.

“Cambodia has ratified the Human Rights Convention, so there should be more freedom and opportunity,” he said.

Siem Reap Provincial Hall spokesman Bun Tharith justified the measures to keep public order and avoid traffic congestion.

Meanwhile in Koh Kong, about 300 protesters filed a petition with provincial authorities calling for the release of four activists imprisoned over their anti-sand dredging activities.

According to Licadho, some 200 people held a public forum in Kratie, some 400 people joined two IHRD events in Svay Rieng and 500 people in Takeo enjoyed music, comedy and information about the history of human rights.

People march along a road late yesterday afternoon in Kampong Speu province in the lead up to international Human rights day on Thursday.
People march along a road late yesterday afternoon in Kampong Speu province in the lead up to international Human rights day on Thursday. LICADHO

Phnom Penh Municipal Hall yesterday reaffirmed its ban on Thursday’s planned IHRD march.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said “serious measures” would be taken to ensure security, with the current Asian Parliamentary Assembly meeting currently ongoing in the capital.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the ministry backed the municipality’s decision.

However, organisers, who expect more than 2,000 people to attend, remained defiant.

“We will march as planned. They try to abuse our human rights, whether it's land grabbing, forced evictions or the lack of independence of the judiciary, but they can’t hide the truth.” said Ee Sarom, executive director of the Teang Tnaut Association.

Sarom said the group would gather in three locations and march to the Ministry of Justice and the National Assembly.

Additional reporting by Shaun Turton

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