The Interior Ministry denied permission for a planned Sunday march by members of the Khmer Krom community from Phnom Penh to Kandal province’s Odong mountain to pray for greater rights for the ethnic group, officials said.
Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, said the ministry cited a late application for permission for the march, as well as paperwork irregularities, in denying the request.
Thach Setha said he had planned for 1,000 people to meet at Wat Phnom and march along National Route 5 in a demonstration emphasizing the plight of the Khmer Krom, ethnic Khmers from formerly Cambodian territory in present-day southern Vietnam.
“It is their habit not to allow peaceful marches” by the Khmer Krom, he said, adding that he believes the government’s grounds for denying the application on technicalities were just an excuse to stop the demonstration.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the application was denied because it simply did not follow procedure.
“They should inform the local authorities first,” Khieu Sopheak said, adding that those hoping to march should ask commune, district, province or municipal officials first before approaching the ministry. Each commune must give permission for a march to pass through it before it can go ahead, he said.
Officials at the commune level must be informed of the size, location, date and purpose of a demonstration a minimum of three days beforehand, Khieu Sopheak added.
Thach Setha said he first sent a letter to the ministry on Wednesday but was rejected because it bore only his signature, lacking the NGO’s official seal.
His request was again rejected on Thursday because his NGO’s bylaws were not attached to the application, he said.
Finally, at a Saturday meeting with deputy municipal cabinet chief Suon Rindy, Thach Setha’s request was officially denied, he said.
Suon Rindy said that municipal authorities had followed orders from the Interior Ministry not to allow the demonstration, though he declined further comment.