More than 100 people representing human rights groups, unions and the Sam Rainsy Party are scheduled to arrive in Kompong Speu province’s Odong district this morning after a two-day march from Phnom Penh to promote nonviolence and freedom of expression.
The march began at Wat Phnom on Saturday morning, led by Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha.
Though there has been some progress in raising awareness of nonviolence and freedom of expression in Cambodia, there still are many who do not grasp their importance for society, he said on Sunday.
“Some people understand and some people don’t understand—we must continue to explain to them,” he said.
Ou Virak, secretary-general for the Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia, said that cultivating the notion that freedom of expression is a fundamental right will takes years. “People are starting to absorb the messages we have conveyed,” he added.
March participant Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said that although he had been walking since Saturday morning, he was not tired on Sunday, having spent the night at a pagoda along the way.
“I think the government will consider the people’s needs, because they want freedom of expression,” he said.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy will join the marchers at Odong this morning, which coincides with Meak Bochea, the annual religious holiday marking the last sermon the Buddha gave, said Chea Sokhom, deputy secretary-general for the Permanent Organizing Commission for National and International Ceremonies.
Chea Sokhom said the marchers would distract from the traditional Meak Bochea celebrations at Odong pagoda.
“They are opportunists,” he said. “Democrats should not disrupt the Buddhist ceremony.”