Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials spar over future demos

Officials spar over future demos

Officials spar over future demos

CONFUSION surrounds a reported government decision to ban all public demonstrations

indefinetely, with the co-Ministers of Interior contradicting each other.

"From today, the Ministry of Interior will not give permission to anyone to

hold demonstrations, as the [political] situation is not good," co-Minister

You Hockry told Reuters Apr 9.

Hockry's position - which followed a meeting of himself and his CPP counterpart Sar

Kheng with Cambodian NGOs a day earlier - were confirmed by other ministry spokespeople.

NGO staff present at that meeting say they were told of the ban by both Hockry and

Kheng.

But Kheng, in Apr 11 interview, later denied making any such comment. Demonstrations

were not prohibited, he said, but the ministry had the right to have the final say

on their time and venue.

Kheng's subsequent comments surprised those NGO workers who were present at the earlier

meeting.

"He personally informed of this [ban], and then You Hockry said that this was

only a temporary measure," said one person, who asked not to be named. "We

were speaking in Khmer - there was no confusion."

Kheng's apparent about-face followed criticism of the ban from human rights workers

and the Khmer Nation Party, who noted that the Constitution guarantees Cambodians'

freedom of assembly.

It also came after Second Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed that public protests only

be allowed at a specially-built, high-security site.

An Apr 5 letter to First Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh, Hun Sen sought his agreement

to construct a "Liberty Site" somewhere in Phnom Penh.

Describing the March 30 grenade bombing of a KNP demonstration as a "bitter

lesson" for democracy, Hun Sen said such a site would help democracy to progress

as "clear and brightly" as sunshine.

The Liberty Site should have a protective fence and gates, to allow anyone going

inside to be searched for weapons, Hun Sen wrote.

The government would guarantee the safety of demonstrators going to the sealed compound,

and the idea would also avoid traffic problems caused by people marching on streets,

he noted.

"I strongly demand [that we] establish the Liberty Site for the freedom of speech

through demonstration... only this way can guarantee full security for demonstrators

as part of democracy."

Ranariddh, in an Apr 7 reply, thanked Hun Sen for his kindness in being concerned

about the safety of demonstrators, but said that his proposal was not acceptable

for several reasons.

They included that the proposal would limit the freedom of Cambodians to express

their ideas and rights, and that such a site would "threaten the spirit"

of demonstrations.

Most countries allowed demonstrators the right to choose their venues and permitted

protests at the offices of their legal representatives, such as the National Assembly

or government institutions.

Ranariddh also noted that the gathering of hundreds of people in a closed site would

result in chaos if there was any violent incident. Had the Mar 30 grenades been thrown

into a closed site, the casuality figures would have been much higher, he said.

Ranariddh repeated his earlier suggestion that a memorial statue be constructed in

the park opposite the National Assembly, at the site of the Mar 30 attack.

Such a statue would stand "as a symbol of democracy in order to commemorate

those who died for democracy", and the park should continue to be able to be

used for demonstrations, he wrote.

 

Death Toll

1) Yong Soknev
Female
20-years job unknown
2) Yong Srei
Female
22 garment worker
3) Chanti Pheakdei
Female
13
4) Ros Kea
Male
13
5) Sok Kheng
Female
20 garment worker
6) Yos Siep
Female
22 garment worker
7) Han Mony
Male
33 KNP bodyguard
8) Yoeun Yorn
Male
17 student
9) Sum Sarin
Male
50 KNP member
10) Chet Duong Daravuth
Male
30 KNP official
11) Chea Nang
Male
27 teacher
12) Nam Ty
Male
37 job unknown

The 12 above were registered dead at Calmette, Kossamak or the Soviet hospital, according

to information provided by Licadho. It remains unclear whether five people who died

at the attack scene are among these 12. Ministry of Information staff say the official

death toll is 17, but were unable to provide a list of the deceased at Post press

time.

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