CAMBODIA: Continued disruption of community empowerment activities organized by human rights groups
Phnom Penh, 27 July 2012 -- The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) condemn the disruption of a training session on land rights jointly organized in Rattanakiri province this morning. ADHOC and CCHR call on all public authorities to put an end to intimidation of human rights workers and to comply with Cambodia’s obligations by upholding citizens’ rights to free expression and assembly.
At 8:30am on 27 July, as villagers gathered in a house in Patang village, Patang commune, Lumphat district, three commune police officers, one provincial police officer, the Village Chief, the Commune Chief and the Deputy Commune Chief knocked on the door and demanded that the meeting be discontinued. They argued that they received orders from provincial authorities and that the meeting organizers failed to satisfy notification requirements.
Mr. Pen Bonnar, ADHOC’s Provincial Coordinator, ignored the orders and proceeded with the meeting. Fifteen minutes later, two additional police officers were sent by the district authorities. One of them carried an M-16 assault rifle. Considering this threat and in view of the attendees’ physical safety, ADHOC and CCHR decided to stop the meeting. Upon their departure, Patang Commune Chief accused ADHOC of engaging in incitement activities. Pen Bonnar now intends to file a complaint for defamation against Patang Village Chief. CCHR staff were told by police that if they did not leave the area, their security would not be guaranteed.
The incident in Rattanakiri this morning is only one example of interference in the work of ADHOC and CCHR, both of which have had their trainings and public forums disturbed and shut down by authorities without legal justification.
ADHOC and CCHR remind Cambodian authorities that under article 3 of the Law on Demonstrations (2009), organizers are exempted from notification requirements for all education dissemination activities for social interests. Despite this provision, CCHR had sent a letter to Patang Village Chief to notify him of the upcoming event. The actions of the authorities are in complete violation of both Cambodian domestic and international human rights law.
ADHOC and CCHR call on all public authorities to uphold Cambodian citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly and to discontinue intimidation of human rights workers who are acting wholly within the law.
For more information, please contact Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of ADHOC’s Monitoring Section, via telephone on +855 (0) 11 274 959, or Mr. Chhim Savuth, Community Trainings and Hearings Project Coordinator at CCHR, on +855 (0) 88 9969241.