Demonstration Bill Sent Back to Ministers

The National Assembly has sent the new draft law on demonstrations, which drew criticism upon its approval by the Council of Ministers in October, back to the government for amending after lawmakers took issue with a controversial article, officials said Thursday.

Following a meeting last week between Interior Ministry officials and lawmakers from the National Assembly commissions on the interior and human rights, it was agreed that alterations would be made to article 26 of the draft law, SRP lawmaker and interior commission chairman Yim Sovann said.

Article 26 of the draft law states that if a demonstration turns violent and leads to the destruction of private or public property, the leaders of the demonstration will be held responsible.

In the event that the demonstration leaders are incapable of paying to repair the damage, they will be open to prosecution by the courts.

Yim Sovann said that he requested the change because the article was a threat against the freedom to hold a demonstration.

“It is unjust towards the demonstration organizer,” he said, adding that elements opposed to the demonstration could easily create serious trouble for organizers by provoking protestors into violence.

Yim Sovann said that the article is going to be amended so that those who destroy the property and their accomplices will be held to blame. A new phrase has also been added wherein the government will bear the burden of compensation in the event that those who destroyed property cannot be identified.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Nouth Sa An, who attended last week’s meeting, confirmed that his ministry had agreed to amend the article in the manner Yim Sovann described.

“We have already agreed to make the changes,” he said.

Yim Sovann said that he still had misgivings about the legislation, but added that his commission would not block it from going to a vote on the Assembly floor once the Interior Ministry returns the amended draft.

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