Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Union umbrella group calls for changes to draft demonstration law

Union umbrella group calls for changes to draft demonstration law

Union umbrella group calls for changes to draft demonstration law

Two articles of the government's draft law place 'unfair restrictions'

on people's rights to demonstrate, according union, NGO officials

THE Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) has asked the National Assembly to delete two parts of the draft Law on Peaceful Demonstrations before MPs meet to approve it.

CCU President Rong Chhun told the Post Thursday he sent a letter to the National Assembly making the request.

Clause 1 and Clause 2 of Article 14 of the proposed law define a peaceful protest as a gathering of no more than 200 people. But many demonstrations have more than 200 people, and limiting the number would be an unfair restriction on people's rights, said Rong Chhun, who is also the head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association.

He said Article 28 of the law states that public demonstrations can be held at just a single venue in each province, which the authorities would be obliged to build within six months of the bill becoming law.

Demonstrators would not be allowed to take their protest outside the venue, which he said was unjust, adding that scrapping this provision would also save the authorities money.

But the secretary of the National Assembly's Commission on the Protection of Human Rights, CPP member Nhem Thavy, said the number of demonstrators was not important - it was their message that counts.

The government should not limit

the number of demonstrators...

"Article 14 and Article 28 are not meant to reduce freedom of expression in Cambodia," said Nhem Thavy, adding that he agreed with the provisions in Article 28.

Ensuring peaceful protests

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Rong Chhun's letter would be considered by the parliament's special commission. But he added that Cambodia needs venues where people can assemble to demonstrate peacefully, claiming that previous marches had ended violently.

"We need to construct these centres for demonstrations to protect social security and public and private property," he said.

"In the past some peaceful demonstrations have resulted in protesters using violence and destroying public and private property."   

The law has raised alarm in some circles. Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said the draft legislation would conflict with the country's obligations as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 19 of that document states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Article 20 states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh said,  "The government should not limit the number of demonstrators or insist on a particular place to demonstrate. Instead it should increase the options."

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