CPP’s Mass Celebration Called Unfair

The CPP’s plans for a mass gathering to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the anti-Pol Pot resistance movement demonstrates the ruling party’s failure to impartially uphold the Con­sti­tu­tion, civil society groups said Monday.

The CPP announced Sunday that more than 10,000 members will assemble in Phnom Penh on Dec 2, while smaller ceremonies will be held nationwide to mark the inauguration of the movement that eventually became the CPP.

The announcement came just days after the UN Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights criticized the government for failing to universally respect Cambodians’ constitutional right to peaceful assembly.

Constitutionally protected rights are upheld only when they do not compromise the CPP, said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.

The CPP doesn’t “interpret the Constitution the same way when they look at themselves,” she said Monday.

“When they gather themselves, they don’t call that a demonstration. They call it a ceremony,” she said. “They cannot divide themselves from the state. The ruling party is the government, the government is the ruling party. That’s the problem.”

Cambodian Center for Human Rights Director Kem Sokha said the CPP’s authority had gone too far.

“The CPP now controls everything in our country. They can do what they want, and [civil society] cannot do what it wants,” he said.

Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou said the Alliance of Demo­crats does not oppose the commemoration, but he agreed that next week’s ceremony is “an operation with two different standards.”

“The environment threatens back to the mid-80s, when people were deprived of their rights of expression,” he said.

Kassie Neou said the CPP is creating a pressure-filled atmosphere not conducive to peacefully resolving the four-month political deadlock.

“We want to keep the situation as calm as possible to build an environment of peaceful negotiations,” Kassie Neou said. “The policy of the Alliance of Democrats is nonviolence.”

King Norodom Sihanouk issued a stinging letter Friday denouncing the National Police for “fascist and inhumane means” employed to suppress peaceful demonstrations banned by the government.

The statement followed a violent police crackdown at a factory strike. Since the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, the government has routinely de­ployed heavily armed police units at mass gatherings by groups that oppose the CPP.

Municipal Director of Cabinet Mann Chhoeun said Monday that the municipality has a policy to grant permission to assemble to all groups regardless of political affiliation.

Mann Chhoeun directed questions regarding the ruling party’s need for an assembly permit to CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith

“Let’s wait and see until the CPP requests permission,” Mann Chhoeun said.

Khieu Kanharith could not be reached on Monday. (Additional reporting by Yun Samean)


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