Guesthouse Told It Needs Official OK To Host CCHR Meeting

The Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights is now without a location to hold a town-hall style meeting with residents of the threatened Boeng Kak lake area after authorities told a local guesthouse where the meeting was to be held that the gathering required official authorization.

Lake area guesthouse owner Hok Siphan said that he was not forced to call a halt to the meeting at his premises on July 12, but that commune officials had made it clear that such a gathering, even in the privacy of the building, needed approval from the Phnom Penh municipality.

“I run a business for profit, and I fear getting into trouble and losing my guesthouse,” Mr Siphan said by telephone on June 5. “I will not rent my guesthouse unless there is municipal permission granted to this organization.”

The CCHR meeting is being organized to discuss the concerns of the nearly 4,000 families who live around the Boeng Kak lake and are facing eviction after a deal was struck between the city and a firm owned by a CPP senator which in­volves filling in the massive lake, evicting many of the area’s current inhabitants and then building private retail and residential units that will then be sold privately.

Residents in the area say the mun­icipality has told them nothing of its plans for their future, and have launched a legal and information cam­paign in the hope that the government will revoke the controversial deal with the well-connected Shu­kaku firm.

Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune deputy chief In Saphan was unable to cite the law that re­quired private residents meeting have official approval. But she said that the human rights or­ganization must respect that un­identified law.

“I have no idea in other places wh­e­ther they require permission,” Ms Saphan said of her de­mand that the CCHR obtain mun­i­­cipal permission.

“CCHR is a big non-governmental organization; it must respect the law,” she continued, adding that authorities had not pressured the guesthouse to pull out of the event.

CCHR Project Coordinator Chhim Savuth said that the ban on the June 12 meeting was the second time his organization had to call off the event.

“I strongly believe that the owner of the guesthouse is under pressure and threats by officials from the village to upper levels,” Mr Savuth said when contacted by telephone on June 5.

A request to hold the meeting on May 20 inside the Boeng Kak mosque that was sent to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema three weeks before that date, was not replied to until the very day of the scheduled event, and then the response was vague, Mr Savuth added.

According to a copy of the May 20 response letter, the city governor replied to CCHR’s request stating that it “is better to seek permission from the mosque authorities first.”

“Because city hall responded too late, which is why we rescheduled the forum for this month instead,” Mr Savuth said.

“The repeated attempts to halt our forum proves that democracy in Cambodia is walking backwards…. We are not holding this forum for our organization’s interests,” he added.

Neither Mr Chuktema nor municipal Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun could be reached for com­ment on June 5.




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