Observers: Governor Violated Villagers’ Rights

Mondolkiri Provincial Gover­nor Thou Son’s decision to bar two ethnic minority villagers from leaving the province to attend an NGO workshop in Phnom Penh violates the Constitution and rep­re­­sents a serious attack on hu­man rights, observers said Wednes­day.

“People can travel freely within their own countries,” said Li­cadho President Kek Galabru. “The Con­stitution says we all have the freedom to travel,” she said.

Thou Son said he was following an Interior Ministry directive that requires people attending meetings outside the province to ask for permission before leaving.

However, government officials said in September that the In­ter­ior Ministry guidelines were in­tended for commune councilors who needed permission from provincial and municipal governors before engaging in study tours and workshops.

Em Veasna, an investigator with Hu­­man Rights Vigilance of Cam­bod­ia, said the two Mon­do­l­kiri villagers were not commune councilors.

Leng Vy, a director at the In­ter­ior Ministry’s department of local ad­ministration, was not aware of Thou Son’s decision but said each province interprets the guidelines as it feels is best.

Kuch Veng, a forestry activist in Pursat province, said he used to inform local officials of workshops he planned to hold and at­tend, but stopped doing so after he was re­peatedly denied permission from authorities.

“I would not be allowed [to at­tend] if I reported to them,” he said.


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