City Hall Shuts Down Rally Against Consumption of Dog Meat

A planned demonstration against the consumption of dog meat was shut down before it could begin in Phnom Penh on Sunday after city authorities said the group did not have permission to gather.

More than 30 people, and an equal number of dogs, met behind Independence Monument in Neak Banh Teuk Park to take part in the worldwide event.

Vorn Vathanavathey, right, and another demonstrator leave an anti-dog meat rally in Phnom Penh's Chamkar Mon district on Sunday after City Hall ordered participants to disperse. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Vorn Vathanavathey, right, and another demonstrator leave an anti-dog meat rally in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district on Sunday after City Hall ordered participants to disperse. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The point of this event is to first of all raise awareness against the pet meat trade,” said Mary Velasco, 29, a teacher from the Philippines and one of the rally’s organizers.

But before their planned dog walk around the park could begin, about 10 security guards, several military police and district authorities informed the group that City Hall had ordered the rally shut down.

“The police stepped on dog poop,” Ms. Velasco told the assembled group of mostly expatriates. “We have to disperse.”

Police and security then told participants that they could move to another park just off of Sothearos Boulevard in Chamkar Mon district, but again were told to disperse just after the group reassembled.

Bun Sopheak, deputy district governor of Chamkar Mon district, said that while he supported the group’s cause, the organizers had not received permission from City Hall.

Contacted later in the day, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that the city had turned down the group’s application because their plan for a mass dog walk was “strange.”

“We don’t just let them do strange things like that,” Mr. Dimanche said. “They are foreigners who want to do a dog parade; it is not proper.”

In 2003, City Hall encouraged Phnom Penh residents to eat more dog meat in order to reduce the city’s stray dog population and feed the poor.

“Come on, dog meat is so delicious,” then-municipal governor Kep Chuktema said at the time.

Chea Sokha, a member of Ms. Velasco’s group who was responsible for informing City Hall of Sunday’s rally, said by phone that although the city had not approved the plans for the rally, he did not inform the other organizers because he felt they still had the right to assemble.

“People can meet and talk and show their opinion and their voice if that is peaceful,” Mr. Sokha said.

“So what is the reason they reject it? They said they don’t have any reason,” he added.

Under the Law on Peaceful Assembly, groups can demonstrate as long as they inform municipal or provincial authorities at least five days in advance and the event is not considered a threat to public security.

(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)

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