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Cambodian NGO director warned to stop criticising government policy

(CCHR/IFEX) - Sia Phearum, the Secretariat Director of Housing Rights Task Force, has been warned by a government affiliated youth organization, the Cambodia Democracy Student Coalition and Student Association, to stop his criticism of official government policy that employs volunteer students to demarcate the land. The threat came as a result of an interview Sia Phearum gave to Radio Free Asia ("RFA") criticizing this government strategy.

In the interview given to RFA on 1 August 2012, Sia Phearum described the government demarcation policy as implementing an "Old Policy but New Activity". During the interview, Sia Phearum claimed that the time and expenditure of the Prime Minister on demarcation of the land for the people was ineffective and transient. He claimed that if the government was truly willing to solve land disputes, it would improve the capacity of civil servants in this respect, not employ inexperienced volunteers. He said that this new policy of employing students to do the work was merely about boosting political image.

On 3 August 2012, the Cambodia Democracy Student Coalition and Student Association released a statement warning Sia Phearum not to criticize government policy on demarcating the land. They strongly rejected his opinions and the consistency of his interview. They warned that if Sia Phearum or other civil society members continued to criticize that they would not be able to guarantee peaceful reaction from villagers and volunteer youth who currently demarcate the land.

In addition to these recent threats, Sia Phearum came under fire in May 2012 for his work and advocacy on behalf of Boeung Kak and Borei Keila residents. As a result of this work he received 103 emails calling for him to stop 'inciting' the land-conflict affected people and put an end to his work with these communities.

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