Activists Vow to Stage Protest in Spite of Ban

About 1,000 activists from a variety of organizations plan to defy a city prohibition and hold a protest today, the groups told a news conference Monday.

“Our stance is that we will dem­onstrate,” the groups’ statement said.

On Friday, Phnom Penh Gov­ernor Chea Sophara forbade the coali­tion of unions and activist groups to hold the protest, saying order and security are needed for the meeting of international aid donors that begins Wednesday.

On Monday afternoon, Chea Sophara met with George McLeod, international liaison for the Free Trade Union of the Work­ers of Cambodia, and re­fused to rescind the ban, both men said.

Chea Sophara maintained that the demonstrators are troublemakers who do not represent the majority of Cambodians .

Meanwhile, McLeod warned that city officials could leave the donors with a bad im­pression if authorities cracked down on the demonstrators.

“We hope [the city] will be cognizant of the fact that since the donors’ meeting is fast approaching, the way they respond to the pro­test will possibly affect [Cam­bodia’s] status with the donors,” he said.

“We hope they will respect our right to peacefully protest.”

The groups said Monday that Chea Sophara’s order will only give them am­munition for today’s protest, and that they will appeal to the donors to put pressure on Prime Minis­ter Hun Sen to en­sure free speech and other democratic principles.

The groups are also demanding reform of the National Election Committee ahead of next summer’s legislative elections, respect for human rights, an end to human trafficking and higher salaries for workers, civil servants, police and soldiers, they said.

(Additional reporting by Molly Ball)


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