Rights Day Celebrations Banned
Phnom Penh City Hall is refusing to allow civil society groups to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights at Wat Botum Park or in other public places and has threatened legal action if they try.
City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey said the Phnom Penh municipality has told NGOs to celebrate Human Rights Day on December 10 in private locations or at their own headquarters as it will not allow a march to Wat Botum Park.
“If civil society groups do not listen and mark International Human Rights Day on December 10 on the road or in public, they will be responsible in accordance with the law,” he said, adding that public celebrations affect security and public order and are presently banned.
Am Sam Ath, a senior coordinator at rights group Licadho, said the decision by City Hall was premature and that discussions should have taken place prior to the decision.
“This celebration is not only in Cambodia but internationally. We just want to remind people of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” he said.
He added that civil society groups would push for further discussion to find a deal that was acceptable to both sides.
On October 31, a coalition of civil society groups submitted a letter to City Hall requesting a location to celebrate Human Rights Day under the theme “promoting freedom of expression and assembly,” while expecting to have about 5,000 attendees.
On Thursday, the coalition issued a statement on behalf of the 62 NGOs that applied for the location, expressing disappointment at City Hall’s refusal.
It urged City Hall to re-examine its decision, however it said they would still celebrate at the location requested by relying on article 41 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and assembly.
In 2015, civil society organization networks and communities in 16 provinces celebrated Human Rights Day from December 6 to 10 under the theme “demand for justice.” More than 3,000 people representing various NGOs gathered in Phnom Penh to submit a petition to the government relating to social justice.
Their petition called for land dispute resolution, judicial system reform, the release of human rights defenders and activists, increased wages, authorities to stop violence and to respect freedom of expression and peaceful gatherings.
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