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New UN app details rights of assembly

A person in Phnom Penh views a new mobile phone application yesterday that was released by the United Nations to provide information on peaceful assembly laws.
A person in Phnom Penh views a new mobile phone application yesterday that was released by the United Nations to provide information on peaceful assembly laws. Hong Menea

New UN app details rights of assembly

As authorities continue to detain opposition supporters and land rights activists for “unpermitted” protests, the United Nation’s human rights agency has released a smartphone app to inform Cambodians on their rights to assembly.

The software details the rights enshrined in Cambodia’s 2009 Law on Peaceful Demonstrations and addresses the implementing guidelines, said UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights country representative Wan-Hea Lee.

According to the law, organisers of protests – defined as public events making a demand – must notify authorities.

However, a demonstration can only be blocked if there is clear information that it will “cause danger or may seriously jeopardize security, safety and public order”. Even in those cases, the law compels authorities to work with organisers to find a solution. If this is not possible, the Interior Minister must provide a written decision.

But in recent months, authorities have routinely characterised protests not explicitly authorised as illegal and have threatened to use force to stop them. They have also shut down educational workshops, which legally do not need notification.

Wan-Hea Lee said the app was targeted at authorities, organisers and participants.

“We hope that it will enable the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to be exercised lawfully and help ensure that any restrictions to them will be imposed lawfully,” she said, via email.

Spokespeople for the Justice and Interior Ministries could not be reached yesterday.

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