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Human rights hotline rings off the hook

Human rights hotline rings off the hook

A telephone hotline dedicated to assisting victims of human rights abuse has found

strong demand for information on tackling land grabs and police brutality among other

things, according to the service's provider, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights

(CCHR).

The organisation this month launched an electronic newsletter, Cambodia News Alert,

with the first issue highlighting the phone service introduced last November. CCHR

advocacy officer Chak Sopaheap said the hotline had generated greater interest from

the public than first anticipated.

"We have exceeded our initial expectations," said Chak Sopaheap. "I

would estimate we receive around ten to 15 phone calls a day."

Chariya Preap, CCHR project coordinator for human rights and public information systems,

said most complaints received by the hotline related to alleged land-grabbing and

forced evictions, arrests of and threats towards local journalists who have written

articles implicating authorities in criminal acts, police brutality and intimidation,

vandalism of political campaign signs and destruction of private property.

"The national hotline serves as a medium for Cambodian citizens to complain

about cases of human rights abuse and receive advice on how to take measures to defend

themselves by peaceful and lawful means," said Preap.

"CCHR will monitor and investigate any cases of human rights violations. If

a case falls into a specialized area, CCHR will refer it to partner organizations."

Preap said most cases handled by the hotline involved helping callers find a solution

on their own, rather than solving issues on their behalf.

"We give information on the applicable Cambodian law, so [victims] can make

their lawful claim, including procedures on how to complain at the courts and the

way to get professional support from other NGOs that are specialized in the concerned

areas, such as the need for shelter for women and children," she said.

Through the hotline, the center conducts preliminary assessments for future investigation.

"We try to monitor the breach but for changes to occur we have to have a kind

of intervention to solve the violations on a case-by-case basis," said Chak

Sopaheap.

"Authorities generally restrict our interventions but now we have a bit more

freedom as a result of the newsletter."

The Cambodia News Alert is to be released monthly in Khmer and English online at
www.cchr-cambodia.org and via email to the media and NGOs.

"Hopefully we will expand the English-language version and include statistical

analysis via a database currently in development and focus on one incident or issue

that is considered to be in need of urgent attention," Preap said.

The hotline number is: 017-505- 050.

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