March for Free Speech To Start This Weekend

The Alliance for Freedom of Ex­pression in Cambodia will hold a three-day march starting on Satur­day to demand free speech and nonviolence in Cambodia, an official with the group said.

The Alliance has invited over 100 NGO and human rights workers to at­tend the march, which is to be held from Saturday to Monday and will travel from Phnom Penh to Kandal province, AFEC Secretary-General Ou Virak said.

Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the march will stop at Od­ong Pagoda, where marchers will pray for freedom of expression and for a nonviolent society.

“We want the government to keep [freedom of expression] for the long term, not just the short term,” Kem Sokha said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that Kem Sokha had asked for his permission to march.

“Kem Sokha asked me whether he could march,” he told a land use conference at Chaktomuk Theater.

Hun Sen said he told Kem Sok­ha that he should not close his public forums, and added that Kem Sokha ought to request security for the march.

Kem Sokha denied asking Hun Sen’s permission and claimed he had only notified the prime minister before seeking a permit from the Interior Ministry.

“I will not slow down my work. I am different from [opposition leader] Sam Rainsy,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said AFEC ought to have asked for a permit from the Phnom Penh Municipality and Kandal province authorities, not the ministry.

“I think the march is not necessary. I think they are asking for bread when they already have rice to eat,” he said.


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