The government should take action against some of its own officials who are forcing people to join in the celebration of the anniversary of Jan 7, 1979, against their will, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said Wednesday.
Authorities have infringed upon the freedom of expression of people who do not want to partake in the celebration and do not share the CPP’s views, CCHR said in a statement.
“The Cambodian Center for Human Rights is concerned about people being forced to celebrate Jan 7, which the ruling party, the CPP, regards as the liberation day from the Pol Pot genocide,” it said.
The government plans a mass rally in Olympic Stadium for the 30th anniversary of the fall of Democratic Kampuchea, where 60,000 people are expected to take part, including 20,000 students from Phnom Penh high schools.
Last month, about 6,000 students were taken from school to conduct an event rehearsal, where they wore CPP hats and shirts, sparking anger from the political opposition.
CCHR Director Ou Virak said people are being forced to put Cambodian flags outside their houses to show support for the holiday.
“They force people to support them. This is communist style. Only in North Korea would they do that; in a democratic country, they don’t do that,” he said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap defended the celebration preparations, saying only willing people will participate in the event.
“Jan 7 is an historical event which led to people’s survival from the Pol Pot regime. Only those people with a mental problem oppose Jan 7,” he said.
He added that this year’s event will be bigger to celebrate not only the 30th anniversary, but also the listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site and the CPP’s landslide victory in the July elections.
“This is not force. We don’t point a gun at them to install the flags. This is a national public holiday,” Cheam Yeap said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong denied that people in the city were being forced to set up flags.