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ASEAN summit in Cambodia: parallel civil society events disrupted

UPDATE: At 7:30am on 15 November 2012, 8 community activists were arrested in Po Sen Chey District, Phnom Penh. They were targeted for writing "SOS" and displaying the word together with US President Obama's picture on their roof, in the hopes of getting help from Obama during his upcoming trip to Cambodia. (CCHR, 15 November 2012)

(CCHR/IFEX) Phnom Penh, 14 November 2012 - According to a public announcement by the Civil Society Committee (the "Committee") of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People's Forum 2012 ("ACSC/APF"), made on 12 November 2012, the Committee is deeply concerned about the recent activities of the Cambodian authorities in repeatedly disturbing the organization of the APF in Phnom Penh. The ACSC/APF 2012 Committee plans to conduct this year's APF from 14 to 16 November - however, the venues that the Committee booked for the event have been canceled by the owners on two occasions due to pressure from the Cambodian authorities. The Committee has been exploring other potential venues to host the event; however members are deeply concerned and frustrated at the continued disruption by the authorities, which is a repeat of events in March 2012 when APF workshops were similarly disrupted.

Yesterday, the opening ceremony of a sister event, the ASEAN Grassroots People's Assembly, ended prematurely after the venue owner refused to sell food or drinks to the participants and turned off the electricity. The organizers of the event said that the restaurant owner was pressured by the local authorities to cancel the event. Moreover, workshops scheduled for today as part of the four-day assembly have also been canceled as the owner of the host venue canceled at the last minute.

In parallel with these events, according to Cambodia Express News (CEN) on 12 November 2012, the spokesman from the Phnom Penh Municipality warned land activists that the authorities would arrest any protesters during the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit, which will take place between 15 and 20 November 2012.

The above actions of the Cambodian authorities are in violation of the right to freedom of assembly, protected under Article 21 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodian and under the Law on Peaceful Assembly, adopted by the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 2009. The actions also run contrary to the Article 1 of the ASEAN Charter, which states that all ASEAN members must "promote a people-orientated ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building."

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