Kandal Authorities Blockade Route to Debate

takhmau district, Kandal prov­ince – Provincial police blocked garment workers from joining a political debate and detained an NGO labor lawyer Sunday, actions that opposition parties have deemed politically motivated, officials said Sunday.

Kandal provincial and military police formed a barricade blocking truckloads of workers from joining a debate with Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec candidates and detained American Center for International Labor Solidarity law­yer Son Saksan for photographing officers without permission, Son Saksan said Sunday.

Kandal Governor Tep Nonnory of Funcinpec said the police action likely was spurred by CPP “nepotism,” as ruling party candidates, who declined to join the forum, did not want workers to hear op­po­­sition opinions.

Deputy Chief of Provincial Judicial Police Tom Vey denied receiving orders from the CPP to ob­struct the event and said authorities rerouted workers to prevent a traffic jam.

“The provincial governor gave permission to that NGO to run the debate but the NGO didn’t ask the authorities in the area. [Those] activities are unethical,” Tom Vey said. Police held Sok Saksan for little more than an hour at the Kandal provincial police station.

Sunday’s detention marked the first time an NGO worker has been held for questioning for his involvement in election activities.

Naly Pilorge, general manager for Licadho, said the detention was unprecedented and seemingly unjustified.

“If the person was just taking photographs, there’d be no legal basis for the detention,” she said.

Funcinpec Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua and Funcinpec Interior Ministry Secretary of State Khou Meng Heang intervened in the case to ensure that Sok Saksan was released and the debate proceeded.

“The police belong to the CPP,” Khou Meng Heang said. “The CPP says it wants to do democracy but it doesn’t practice it. The detention of an NGO worker is an abuse of human rights.”

This is the second workers’ de­bate CPP officials have declined to join, Judd said. A debate scheduled to take place at the University of Fine Arts on July 6 was relocated after the university’s dean backed out of a $150 contract signed with Judd.

CPP Information Ministry Sec­re­tary of State Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that the CPP neither ordered police to block the road nor pressured the University of Fine Arts or the Ministry of Cul­ture to cancel the July 6 debate.


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