A nationwide rally to mark Human Rights Day next week will get off to an early start Wednesday in Ratanakkiri province, where activists, monks and ethnic minorities will convene for a day of entertainment before embarking Thursday on a weeklong march to Phnom Penh.
Three hundred members of seven different minority groups are set to take part in traditional dancing and the screening of documentaries in O’ Chum district, marking the first time residents of the remote northeastern province have taken part in human rights day celebrations, according to Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho.
Jar Seyhak, president of Khmer Students Intelligent League Association, said 25 students, 35 monks and 200 residents of Ratanakkiri plan to make the journey to Phnom Penh starting Thursday, distributing leaflets and carrying signs along the way.
“We will hold some banners…to inform people about their rights and right to express themselves, while indigenous people will show their concerns and issues that they face,” Mr. Seyhak said.
The group from Ratanakkiri is one of seven from around the country who, for the second straight year, plan to march down a number of national highways and convene in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on December 10, Human Rights Day.
Ratanakkiri provincial police chief Nguon Koeun said the march should get off to a smooth start.
“We have met with their representatives and we allowed them to march,” he said. “We asked them not to walk all over the road and block traffic, and not to let people use violence.”
By the end of the week, more than 600 activists from around the country will have begun the trek to the capital, according to a statement from Licadho, which says the group from Ratanakkiri will meet up with fellow travelers in Kompong Cham province before heading to Phnom Penh.
But according to Chim Leav, Kompong Cham deputy governor, the group may not be warmly received.
“We received information [about the march] yesterday,” he said. “We will not allow them to hold it if it affects the public order, politics or if they demand rights.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Paula Brito)