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Nov-24-2012 18:35printcomments

Cambodia: Civil society Events Disrupted by Authorities Ahead of ASEAN Summit

Calling the Cambodian govt out over violations of rights.

Martha Diaz
Martha Diaz

(SALEM) - The Cambodian government must cease all disruptions of peaceful and legitimate civil society events.

To prove to the world that it is not simply repeating behavior from the dark years, the country has to take steps to end any harassment of human rights defenders who take part in events that make the government uncomfortable.

Instead of behaving legally and responsibly, Cambodia recently cracked down on human rights activists gathered in Phnom Penh for two major meetings timed before the 21st summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which took place in Cambodia from 18 to 20 November 2012.

The activists reported widespread attempts from local authorities to prevent and disrupt civil society events in a series of blatant violations of the right to freedom of assembly in Cambodia.

Cambodia now must immediately, exhaustively and thoroughly investigate the intimidation and harassment of the civil society organisations who have organised the events ahead of ASEAN summit, and also guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Cambodia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.


Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom SIHAMONI
King; Supreme Commander of the Cambodian National Armed Forces
Office of the King
Royal Palace
Phnom Penh
Cambodia

Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.

I am also a visiting fellow at Centre for Applied Human Rights in University of York, UK.

I came to know about the situation from Front Line – The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Human rights defenders gathered in Phnom Penh reported widespread attempts from local authorities to prevent and disrupt civil society events in a series of blatant violations of the right to freedom of assembly in Cambodia. Non-governmental organisations congregated in Phnom Penh to take part in two major meetings timed before the 21st summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which took place in Cambodia from 18 to 20 November 2012.

The organisations reported incidents of the local authorities pressurising guesthouses to refuse accommodation to participants in the events, pressurising reserved venues for the events and workshops to cancel bookings, refuse service and cut power supplies. Local government authorities in Phnom Penh have reportedly issued threats that any participants in protests during the summit will be arrested.

Organisers of the civil society event ASEAN Grassroots People’s Assembly (AGPA) had submitted prior notification to organise a rally on 16 November 2012 in order to present a petition to government representatives, but permission for this was denied by local authorities and the Ministry of the Interior. On 14 November, AGPA participants found that the venues where workshops were scheduled to take place had been cancelled. In one location, 300 AGPA officials were turned out of a venue around 11:00 a.m., when the venue’s owner shut off the electricity supply and forced them to leave. On the same day, around 50 villagers who had travelled to Phnom Penh to support the rally and the petition bid found themselves turned out of the guesthouse they were staying in.

A previous AGPA event had already been disrupted on 13 November when the opening ceremony, with an attendance estimated at upwards of 1,500 people, was forced to end prematurely when electricity was cut by the owner.

Another large-scale civil society event taking place in Phnom Penh, the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum 2012 (ACSC/APF) also suffered disruptions when two venues cancelled the bookings at the last minute. An independent church cancelled the booking on 10 November after a group of unidentified local authorities came to visit the owner. Its replacement venue, Modern Center 5, cancelled on 13 November immediately after a similar visit by local authorities. The owner claimed this was due to pressure from top authorities.

I am concerned by these clear violations of the right to freedom of assembly in Cambodia, a right guaranteed under Article 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

I urge the authorities in Cambodia to:

1. Cease all disruptions of peaceful and legitimate civil society events as well as any harassment of the human rights defenders who take part in these events;

2. Carry out an immediate, exhaustive and thorough investigation into the intimidation and harassment of the civil society organisations who have organised the events ahead of ASEAN summit;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Cambodia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.


Sincerely
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com
www.williamgomes.org

Donate to Support William's Human Rights Stories; donate through PayPal

Donate to: williamgomes.org@gmail.com

http://williamnicholasgomes.com/2012/11/20/cambodia-civil-society-events-disrupted-by-authorities-ahead-of-asean-summit/

______________________________

Salem-News.com Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.

He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency Asianews.it from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.



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