The Phnom Penh municipal government has rejected a request from NGOs to mark international Human Rights Day on December 10 with a march from the National Assembly to Freedom Park, claiming the walk would pose a threat to public security.
“We will not allow them to march because of security and traffic issues,” said City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche.
Despite the city’s ban, he said the municipality has asked the Interior Ministry for advice on the request and would defer to its decision.
Suon Bunsak, head of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, which was among the groups that made the request, said he disagreed with the city’s decision and that the NGOs have sent the Interior Ministry their own letter.
“We have sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior to say we don’t agree with City Hall’s decision to not let us march,” he said. “We told the Ministry of Interior that we would like to meet at the National Assembly and march to Freedom Park.”
He said the organizers were planning to attract a crowd of 5,000 people to the event.
“We want to march to show the public the current situation,” he said. “The most important thing is to show the public how to promote and protect human rights.”
Ny Chakrya, senior rights monitor for the NGO Adhoc, called City Hall’s ban on the march “unreasonable.”
“We know that when we march it will cause some traffic jams. But we have to value human rights, and we have to decide if preventing traffic jams is more important than human rights,” he said.
Mr. Chakrya also accused the city of applying double standards for banning the march over traffic concerns when it routinely allows wedding and funeral ceremony tents to take over public streets for days on end.
Mr. Dimanche dismissed the argument.
“A march expresses an opinion,” he said. “We cannot allow it and we cannot compare.”
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry could not be reached.