Council of Ministers Backs Sok An’s Booklet

The Council of Ministers de­fended the distribution last week of a publication on the limits of freedom, as critics called it indicative of a government focused on stability.

The booklet, a transcript of a French law professor’s speech at a Phnom Penh university last year, argues for restrictions on the press and freedom of assembly and special limits on foreign-owned media. It was handed out to journalists with a letter from Minister of Cabinet Sok An at an unrelated news conference last week.

In an unsigned statement Fri­day, the Council said the booklet is intended to be educational and not a bullying tactic.

“This material does not force, pressure or reduce someone’s rights and freedom,” the statement read.

“The certain point is that we will not deviate from the transitional penal code, the press law and the journalists’ code of conduct, which are the judicial basis and key elements of the rule of law in Cambodia,” it stated.

One political observer noted that the government had been “cautious” by curbing some freedoms in the interest of security after the anti-Thai riots in the capital a year ago.

The city banned protests in the wake of the July 27 elections and bulked up police presence outside the National Assembly to ward off demonstrators. In June, one worker and a police officer were killed in a violent demonstration by striking factory workers.

But the analyst said the government has also loosened its hold on the media, allowing some radio stations and newspapers to launch vicious attacks on the CPP and the caretaker government.

“The government has been very careful to ensure public order, peace and security,” the analyst said.

Still, he added, “Compared to other countries in the region, this is an open society.”

Kek Galabru, founder of the hu­man rights group Licadho, said the CPP-led government has no interest in promoting freedom and has consistently failed to deliver on promises of reform.

“We know we cannot have a perfect democracy, but we need at least a transitional one…. We are still an authoritarian regime, but under a different name,”  Gal­abru said.

 

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