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Rights activists demand more freedom

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
People gather yesterday at Freedom Park to mark Human Rights Day. KT/Mai Vireak

During the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day at Freedom Park yesterday, activists urged all governing bodies to pay closer attention to human rights in order to address challenges still being faced.

About 500 people marked the anniversary yesterday at the park, including land activists, farmers, youths, factory workers, civil servants and teachers.

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, said though the government has endorsed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it has not yet fully granted rights and freedoms for its citizens.

Mr Pov noted that freedom of expression and freedom to assemble are still being restricted by authorities.

“We planned to march from a park in front of the Council for the Development of Cambodia office to Freedom Park, but we were only limited to Freedom Park,” he said. “Sometimes, when we conduct meetings at our office, people take photos of it. Is this an indication of the freedom to express?”

He called on the government to further consider the promotion of the rights of street vendors and farmers to receive healthcare coverage.

Vorn Pov and Rong Chhun at Freedom Park yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Mr Pov also called for the ratification on Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers and stop discrimination on workers in the transportation sector.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager with rights group Licadho, yesterday said though the government is attempting to ease tensions, local authorities still continue to restrict civil society gatherings.

“We should jointly work to restore respect for human rights and democracy in Cambodia,” Mr Sam Ath said.

Sang Puy, a Koh Kong province resident who is affected by a land issue, yesterday said it was the first time that she participated in Human Rights Day.

Ms Puy said a land dispute involving 76 families in Kiri Sakor district pushed her to participate this year.

“Please have respect for human rights. I would like to ask Samdech Techo Hun Sen to urge officials to have a resolution for us,” she said. “It has been ten years already, we are tired of protesting and filing petitions. We have wasted time and money.”

Other participants who attended the event at Freedom Park said the government must monitor production chains and expand the market for farmers.They also said that the government must strengthen protections for migrant workers, the elderly and teachers.

The gathering, though sanctioned by municipal authorities, was strictly monitored by dozens of authorities.

Chea Pisey, Russey Keo district governor, yesterday said he had deployed police forces to ensure security and safety.

“The forces we deployed are only protecting the safety of the people by helping to avoid problems,” Mr Pisey said. “Sometimes there are occurrences that affect public order. I would like to say that we did not allow demonstrators to rally outside of the designated location. That would affect public order, so we told them to express their opinions here.”

People gather at Freedom Park to mark Human Rights Day yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Senate president Say Chhum yesterday said the Senate, the National Assembly, the government and other governing institutions have been respecting the principles of multiparty democracy, rule of law and the protection of human rights.

Mr Chhum noted that Cambodia will continue to implement the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Convention on Human Rights.

“Every Cambodian citizen these days enjoy human rights protections. They have the right to live, to have livelihoods, to form unions, to create civil society organisations to receive healthcare and education,” he said. “They also receive economic and social benefits, public services and development.”

Six union organisations, including the Union of the Movement of Workers and the Cambodian Informal Economic Workers Association, yesterday issued a joint statement saying that the government has taken steps to ensure human rights.

However, the six unions have asked the government to review and address the rights of workers. In the statement, the unions stated that some workers were fired without justification, while some union leaders and activists are unrecognised by employers.

They also stated that articles in the Trade Union Law should be reviewed, Labour Laws should be promoted for domestic workers and set a minimum wage for workers in the sectors of construction and service.

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