Interior Minister and Acting Prime Minister Sar Kheng sought to assure UN rights envoy Surya Subedi during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday that protests and demonstrations were most definitely allowed in Cambodia, according to the National Police.
Journalists were barred from the meeting, the details of which were only released yesterday on the police website.
“The ministry does not ban demonstrations, but the demonstrators have to ask permission from the government or local authorities,” Kheng was quoted as saying.
In July, following his last visit, Subedi had called on the government to lift remaining bans on freedom of assembly imposed in the wake of mass garment worker protests in early January that ended when at least five workers were shot dead by authorities.
Subedi raised the fact that no one in the security forces had ever been held to account for those deaths with Kheng on Wednesday, the police said. He also raised issues including electoral reforms, the recent arrivals of Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam, and the detention of monks, opposition and land activists, they said.
In response to Subedi’s questions about widespread impunity, Kheng “underlined [that] the government had been pushing for an end to impunity” and that a number of offenders on the run had been brought to justice, the statement said.
It is unclear whether Subedi raised the case of former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith, who remains on the run from authorities after shooting three garment workers at a 2012 protest.
Subedi, who has spoken only briefly to the media this week, is to deliver a full press statement today. After the meeting with Kheng, he allegedly said that he had received “honest” responses and that Kheng had provided “useful information” for him.
Separately, Subedi met yesterday with representatives from Kampong Chhnang’s Lor Peang community, receiving a petition on behalf of 90 families that are yet to have a nearly 10-year land dispute with KDC International solved.
In response, Subedi said that he had raised the dispute with the government several times and would continue to do so on this visit, his final as UN Special Rapporteur. Subedi has received petitions from the same community twice before.
A meeting between Subedi and Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana that was scheduled for yesterday was inexplicably cancelled.