Police who shut down a gathering of 30 people in a private home in Prey Veng province yesterday justified the action by saying the organisers had failed to notify the district governor in writing beforehand.
The NGO Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Communities (CCFC) arranged the meeting at the house in Ba Phnom district’s Boeung Preah commune to discuss farmers’ rights, quality of life and political empowerment.
Under the 2009 Law on Peaceful Demonstrations, public protests require official notification to district or local authorities. However, the organisers said the gathering was neither public, nor a protest.
“According to the law, we do not have to inform superiors,” said CCFC official Thou Thea.
Boeung Preah chief Nob Choek said the Ba Phnom district governor had previously required CCFC to tell the government about its meetings.
“I went to meet the police chief and he asked for advice from district authorities,” said Choek. “The district police chief wanted the notification letter.”
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday that even though private meetings were supposedly exempt from the notification requirement, authorities still regularly shut them down.
“Sometimes even when NGOs organise some training in an office or hotel, police tell them they can’t do that,” he said.
Governor Phearun could not be reached for comment.
Additional reporting by Igor Kossov