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

 

Myanmar Election: UNICEF Urges Prioritisation Of Children

With 99 days to go before Myanmar elections, UNICEF urges candidates make children the clear winner More>>

Liberia Thousands Of Unregistered Children Born During Ebola Crisis

Thousands of unregistered children born in Liberia during Ebola crisis at risk of exploitation – UNICEF More>>

UN Refugee Agency Envoy Angelina Jolie Visits Myanmar

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt (left) in Myitkyina township, Kachin State, Myanmar, meeting with some of the 100,000 displaced people who currently live there. Photo: UNHCR/T.Stoddart More>>

As Health Needs Rise In Somalia, Funding Hits New Low

As health needs rise in Somalia, funding hits new low, cutting off 1.5 million from care – UN More>>

Need To End Violence Against Children In Conflict

‘We should be outraged’ more not being done to end violence against children in conflict – UNICEF chief More>>

On Mandela Day, UN Joins Call To Promote Community Service

Nelson Mandela, then Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/P. Sudhakaran More>>

Some $3.2 Billion Needed For Ebola Recovery Efforts

Some $3.2 billion needed for Ebola recovery efforts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – UN More>>

World Day: UN Spotlights Plight Of Vulnerable Populalations

Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting near the Syrian city of Kobani wait in a holding area before boarding buses in Turkey (September 2014). Photo: UNHCR /I. Prickett More>>

Afghanisatan: Direct Talks Between Government And Taliban

The United Nations Security Council has welcomed the recently held direct talks between Afghan Government and Taliban representatives as a step towards “peace and reconciliation” in the region. More>>

Eradicating World Hunger By 2030

Agriculture workers collect carrots on a farm in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann More>>

Bangladesh: Flood Leads To UN Agency Providing Food Relief

Anwar Hossain unloads cartons of High Energy Biscuits from a pickup truck and transfers them to a distribution center in Kawar Khop union, Ramu upazila, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: WFP/Kamrul Mithon More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news