The National Assembly on Thursday will review an amended version of the controversial draft law on peaceful demonstrations, an official said Monday.
In February 2008, the Assembly sent the law back to the Council of Ministers following concerns raised by SRP lawmakers over an article stating that organizers of demonstrations would be held legally responsible for any damage to property caused by participants.
Try Sokheng, an assistant to Interior Ministry Secretary of State Nuth Sa An, said a National Assembly committee will review the revisions that have now been made to the draft of the law.
“The National Assembly committee will review the demonstration draft law June 11,” Mr Sokheng said.
According to a copy of the amended draft law, which was submitted to the Assembly in March, the Council of Ministers changed the article regarding responsibility for damages resulting from a demonstration. It now states that those directly responsible for damages to property and their accomplices will be punished for the offense.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that during a party meeting on Monday, 20 SRP lawmakers welcomed the amendment to the draft, but he added that the party has requested that more changes be made.
The draft law currently states that only 200 people can participate in a demonstration and the law only allows participants to demonstrate from 6 am to 6 pm.
“The draft law must not limit the number of participants and the time,” Mr Sovann said. “If the demonstrators have rice to eat, they can continue to hold the protest as long as they want,” he said.
Mr Sovann added that the government must also clearly define what the words “public order” mean in the draft law because there is no clear definition of the phrase, which leaves it open to government interpretation what disturbing such order means, and ultimately allowing demonstrations to be arbitrarily shut down.
He added that the SRP would not support the draft law unless the government makes the amendments as requested.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said by telephone Monday that the government would not amend the draft law as requested by the SRP.
“We don’t like Mr Yim Sovann’s request,” Mr Sopheak said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote a statement to the National Assembly in March stating that the law on demonstrations would uphold freedom of expression rights in a more responsible fashion.
“In a democratic society, to enable people to have freedom of expression through peaceful demonstration, it is necessary, but those rights must be limited in order to protect national security, public order, social welfare…and to protect other people’s rights,” the prime minister wrote.
“The draft law is to ensure freedom of speech protection for all people and prevent this freedom from being abused,” he wrote.