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Cambodian rights group condemns reiteration of ban on assemblies in Phnom Penh

Human rights monitors try to stop a passer-by from getting beaten. Police and 'auxiliary police' pulled him off his motorbike minutes after hundreds of people protested in front of Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on 1 May 2014
Human rights monitors try to stop a passer-by from getting beaten. Police and 'auxiliary police' pulled him off his motorbike minutes after hundreds of people protested in front of Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on 1 May 2014

Demotix/Erika Pineros

On 30 April 2014, ahead of the celebration of International Labor Day and the start of the council election campaign period, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") strongly condemned the reiteration of the ban on assemblies in Phnom Penh and urged security forces to refrain from using excessive violence against protesters.

On 29 April 2014, an announcement by Phnom Penh Governor Par Socheat Vong, was published on the website of the Phnom Penh Municipality, banning all public assemblies starting 1 May 2014. Following the announcement, letters were sent on 30 April 2014 to union associations and the Cambodian National Rescue Party, stating they could not hold public assemblies on Labor Day and between 2 May 2014 and 16 May 2014, the council elections campaign period.

The right to freedom of assembly has been on hold in the Kingdom of Cambodia ("Cambodia") since 4 January 2014. The ban is unlawful, seriously disproportionate and excessively broad and is in clear violation of international and domestic provisions protecting the right to freedom of assembly, including the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. CCHR calls on the international community to strongly urge the Royal Government of Cambodia (the "RGC") to immediately restore the right to freedom of assembly and to ensure free and fair elections by allowing all parties to campaign fairly.

In addition, the Municipal Hall's public announcement mentions that 500 police and military police personnel have been deployed in each district of Phnom Penh to implement the ban during the campaign period. Considering the repeated use of excessive force by Cambodian security forces, which have already led to the death of at least four people since the beginning of 2014, CCHR urges security forces to exercise restraint and avoid violence.

CCHR Executive Director Chak Sopheap comments:

"Instead of respecting the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, the RGC's decision to refuse civil society groups and the opposition to hold demonstrations in Freedom Park on Labor Day and ahead of the upcoming elections is a grave violation of these rights. In the context of a deteriorating human rights situation, the Phnom Penh Municipality's decision to reiterate the ban on all assemblies and demonstrations in Phnom Penh during the election campaign is a thinly veiled attempt at silencing the opposition. All such bans must be lifted immediately; doing anything less will severely harm the development of democracy in Cambodia."

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