More than 10,000 thumbprints of villagers from communities throughout 24 provinces and cities secured to a 230-metre blue krama was submitted to the National Assembly yesterday as a petition against the passage of three worrying laws.
Before submitting the petition, which weighed 50 kilograms, about 100 villagers from land-dispute communities and villages dependent on fishing and forestry stood alongside civil society representatives while holding the scarf and chanting.
“The citizens wanted the National Assembly to know that they are very concerned over draft laws which restrict their freedom,” Yeng Virak, president of Community Legal Education Center said.
The thumbprints, which were collected on International
Human Rights Day on December 12, are in protest over the passage of the draft law on associations and NGOs, the draft union law and the draft agricultural cooperative law.
A large and vocal portion of civil society views these draft laws as violating the constitutional and international rights of Cambodians, specifically freedom of expression and association guarantees.
Heng Sam Orn, general secretary of the Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association, said the three laws were not really needed and, if passed, the rights and freedom of expression of citizens and civil society organisations alike would be narrower.
“Law dictating what activities local communities can do in their residences is a restriction on freedom, and it will be contrary to our constitution,” he said.
Villager Nhel Pheap said that submitting the petition to the National Assembly is “a beforehand caution” for the National Assembly, which has the ultimate right to consider and approve laws.
Sar Bora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said Cambodian civil society intended to continue advocacy protests against the laws, even if the National Assembly passed them.