Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hundreds gather for two-day Citizens’ Forum

Hundreds gather for two-day Citizens’ Forum

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The forum was held to gather citizens’ input ahead of the ASEAN Summit. LONG KIMMARITA

Hundreds gather for two-day Citizens’ Forum

Civil society organisations (CSOs) and hundreds of people from all walks of life met at a two-day “Cambodian citizens’ forum” in the capital to voice their concerns, hoping their issues will be addressed and included in national and regional policies.

The forum, themed “Protecting Citizens’ Space, Democracy and Human Rights for Equity and Justice in Cambodia”, was held on October 16-17, with more than 50 CSOs and over 400 people in attendance.

The forum was designed to gather inputs for the government and the regional bloc to address as Cambodia prepares to host the ASEAN Summit next month.

Seng Reasey, executive director of the NGO SILAKA and the organiser of the forum, told The Post on October 17 that the event was intended for a wide range of stakeholders to participate in discussions on human rights, peace, security, citizen space and business integrity in Cambodia.

She said environmental and trade issues, food security, a dignified life, social protection, decent work, safe migration and healthcare for all during the post-Covid-19 recovery period were also raised as topics for discussion.

“Challenges remain, which require attention and continue to be addressed. The concept in this discussion is not to impose blame on any party.

“But it is for creating an atmosphere that ensures everyone can come and listen to each other, know each other’s problems and understand the real situation of locals,” Reasey said.

With gaps in policy making and certain laws, Reasey said she wanted to see the government and other stakeholders in both the Kingdom and the region get full information on the problems and desires of the people taking part in the forum.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director at rights group LICADHO who participated in the forum, said the event was organised before the ASEAN Summit to gather input on various issues, provide solutions and give recommendations to the Cambodian government as well as the regional bloc.

“For the Cambodian government, we propose considering policies, mechanisms and solutions for people who have faced past challenges, such as in human rights, democracy, trade and agriculture issues. We also want the ASEAN governments to help find solutions,” he said.

Theng Savoeun, director of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), said conferences such as this Cambodian Citizens’ Forum and ASEAN People’s Forum were important and necessary for informing leaders of issues.

“Whether it is the Cambodian government or ASEAN, they must accept the concerns and recommendations regarding the specific needs of the people in each country who are facing challenges in daily life.

“If the issues are accepted, it will show the responsibility of the governments of Cambodia and ASEAN,” he said.

If the current issues, such as human rights, democracy, assembly rights and land deputes, as well as those regarding the environment, trade and agriculture, were not addressed, it would represent a lack of responsibility from the 10 ASEAN governments, he added.

Sok Penh, executive director of the Coalition for Partnership in Democratic Development, said civil society groups would issue a joint statement outlining the position and needs of each sector after the two-day forum.

It was to be hoped that the Cambodian government and ASEAN would take the people’s requests into consideration and put in place plans to meet their specific needs, he added.

“I think what we have discussed will have an impact on policy makers, and we hope that the policy makers of each country will incorporate the issues of the people into the framework for implementation,” Penh said.

Yon Sophoan, a factory worker who participated in the forum, expressed satisfaction with the event, saying it was important that people like him had a chance to participate in expressing their views on the issues they were facing.

He said he also expected that the issues raised by the people in the forum would be considered and addressed, especially with the development of appropriate policies in response to them.

“What we are talking about, I am not 100 per cent sure they will be able to resolve it this time, but I believe that in the future the government will be able to,” Sophoan said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan described the citizens’ forum as a mechanism put forward by ASEAN to provide opportunities for CSOs to participate.

However, he said mentions of the political space, human rights and the democratic space could affect the ASEAN principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of member countries.

MOST VIEWED

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,

  • Nearly 50 states join Kun Khmer Federation, all set for training

    In a little over a week, the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) has accepted membership requests from 20 new nations, in addition to the exiting 29. The sudden influx of international recognition stems from the Kingdom’s successful introduction of Kun Khmer to the 32nd Souheast Asian (