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Cablegate: Cambodia's Peaceful Human Rights Day March

VZCZCXRO7684
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #1500 3441120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101120Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 001500

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA'S PEACEFUL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY MARCH

REF: PHNOM PENH 1491

1. (U) On December 10, Cambodia seized a prime opportunity
to show its progress as an increasingly open society by
allowing a Human Rights Day march and rally in Phnom Penh.
The Ambassador took part in the orderly, peaceful march along
with approximately 500 (some estimates as high as 1,000)
human rights activists, monks, and other Cambodians. The
march wound through a half mile of Phnom Penh's roads before
convening on the centrally located Wat Phnom where a rally of
approximately 3,000 participants took place. In the past two
years, Human Rights Day rallies without marches have occurred
in an enclosed space.

2. (SBU) On December 6, the Phnom Penh Municipality and the
Ministry of Interior denied permission for the Human Rights
Day march and rally citing public order and security concerns
(reftel). On December 7, after consultation with the
Ambassador and others, MOI officials apparently realized that
allowing the march and rally would be a step forward for
freedom of assembly and demonstration in the country.

3. (U) During the December 10 march, activists held banners
with messages urging that all citizens get involved in the
celebration of human rights, and one marcher used a bullhorn
to lead calls for an end to human rights abuses. Marchers
wore white t-shirts and caps commemorating the 59th year of
the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A few
police officers were on hand to assist with traffic -- poloff
counted five police officers -- but vehicle traffic and
public order were not a problem. Marchers walked a half mile
from a public park in the northern part of the central city
to Wat Phnom where they convened for a three-hour rally.
Marchers were joined at Wat Phnom by approximately 2,000
additional participants. The United Nations Special
Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights in
Cambodia Yash Ghai also took part in the march and gave a
speech at the rally. In his speech Ghai stated that it was
important for the Cambodian people to stand up for their own
rights, and not always rely on government officials to
protect their rights. Some observers speculated that a rally
of the opposition political party Human Rights Party held at
the same time -- exploiting the association between its party
name and this special day -- caused some to arrive late at
the NGO-sponsored rally.
MUSSOMELI

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