World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Cambodia: Tolerance of Dissent Sends The Right Message

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-050-2012
November 16, 2012

A Statement from The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Cambodia: A Cambodian That Tolerates Dissent Sends The Right Message To President Obama

Phnom Penh, 15 November 2012 — The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) expresses its condemnation at the arrest today of eight community activists in Thmar Kaul Village, Po Sen Chey District, Phnom Penh. The community activists are guilty of nothing more than exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression, and coming in the wake of intimidation and harassment of civil society groups attempting to organize and hold meetings ahead of the upcoming ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, the arrests and detention of these community activists is yet another example of the Cambodian authorities’ disregard for human rights. The Cambodian authorities have expressed a desire to show the "good" face of Cambodia to the world, however, their intolerance of dissent and willingness to use the police to stifle freedom of expression instead demonstrates little more than the shrinking democratic space in the country.

At 7:30am on November 15 2012, eight community activists—Un Sokny; Kin Leang; Chray Nim; Khea Sary; Uch Srey; Mach; Sem Phal Sokunthy; Yun Sovanna; and Phung Sopheap—were arrested in Thmar Kaul Village, Po Sen Chey District, Phnom Penh, after writing the word "SOS", on the roof of their building. Their plea for help was written beside a picture of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. The eight are currently being detained at the Sangkat Kakab police station while the Prosecutor decides the charges to be brought against them. Residents in Po Sen Chey District are currently locked in a land dispute with authorities ahead of the ASEAN Summit. They have been told that they must vacate their properties and forfeit their land to make way for a security area around Phnom Penh International Airport, where foreign leaders are shortly due to arrive. ADHOC has repeatedly called for fair compensation for the residents. This compensation has not been forthcoming, and instead the security zone appears to be little more than another case of forced eviction in a country beset with forced evictions, land grabbing and ecologically and socially damaging Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), amidst a general disregard for the land rights of poor and marginalized Cambodians.

The eight community activists were exercising their right to freedom of expression in an attempt to bring their plight to the attention of foreign leaders. Freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom and is intimately linked with the conditions of transparency and accountability that are necessary in a fully functioning democracy. Freedom of expression is guaranteed under Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution, in addition to article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR). It is also incorporated into Cambodian law by Cambodia’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1992, which provides for freedom of expression under Article 19. As this article states: "this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Therefore, not only is the issue raised by the community activists an important one; they have every legal right to raise it.

There is no little irony that the community activists were arrested when sending a message to President Obama. Only last week President Obama was re-elected to office after a lively and long-fought presidential election in which freedom of expression was crucial to the democratic process. Moreover, freedom of expression is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States and therefore the exercise of this right would surely be welcomed by the delegation from the United States. Instead, in their heavy-handed suppression of this basic right and arbitrary arrest of the community activists the Phnom Penh authorities have shown how far a gulf there is between the human rights protections guaranteed under domestic and international law and the extent to which they are respected in practice.

The 2012 ASEAN Summit presents Cambodia with a unique opportunity to show its commitment to human rights. The arrest of the eight community activists gives the opposite message. If the Cambodian authorities truly wish to show the best of the country, then it must be willing to tolerate criticism and not attempt to stifle the democratic space in the country.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 


$1 Billion In Reparations For Iraq's Invasion Of Kuwait

UN Panel Pays Out Over $1 Billion in Reparations for Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait More>>

UN-Backed Tsunami Warning System Test

A view of the destruction caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 in Point Pedro, a small fishing village in northern Sri Lanka. UN Photo/Evan Schneider More>>

Al Jazeera To Mark 300 Days Since Arrests Of Journalists

• 300 second montage to mark 300 days to be aired on Al Jazeera • Parents of Peter Greste say the past 300 days has been stressful Doha , 23 October, 2014 More>>

4 Months’ Jail For French Journos Should Be Enough

'We hope it will be a lesson for foreigners to not violate their visas in Indonesia.' More>>

Support Needed For Olive Farmers In Palestinian Territory

Olive trees in the Palestinian town of Ni'lin in 2008 were very close to expanding Israeli settlements. Photo: IRIN/Shabtai Gold More>>

ALSO:

Use Of Drones In Law Enforcement May Violate Human Rights

22 October 2014 – The increasing use of armed drones within domestic law enforcement risks depersonalizing the use of force and infringing upon the rights of individual citizens, a United Nations independent human rights expert warned today. More>>

Gaza: Pledges For Aid, Reconstruction Must Be Honoured

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Security Council President for the month of October, María Cristina Perceval of Argentina, is at ... More>>

Ebola: UN Prepares For Arrival Of Trial Vaccines

In early October 2014, with the help of the US Navy, a new mobile laboratory opened at Island Clinic, one of the WHO-supported Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: WHO/R. Sørenson More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news