Rights Group Calls for Intimidation-Free Forums

The Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights urged authorities on Thurs­day to create an intimidation-free environment at its public fo­rums, while a CCHR official said some attendees appear to be trying to intimidate others.

The organization has recently been facing “obstacles” at its fo­rums, which in the past have been conducted relatively smoothly, the  human rights group said in a statement.

“We are asking that the authorities at every level must create an en­vironment where people are free from intimidation,” the CCHR said. “At the same time, we are asking that each participant re­spect[s] others’ rights to their opinions.”

A group of people appears to be re­­peatedly attending the forums and trying to intimidate people, Pa Nguon Teang, CCHR Radio director said.

“It’s hard to say they are a well-organized team of disturbance,” he said. “But their gestures appear to be intimidating other participants.”

At a Wednesday forum in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, a male attendant identifying himself as “the beautiful girl” shouted out “Long live the spirit of January the Seventh,” referring to that day in 1979 when Vietnamese-led forces liberated Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge.

The man asked Kem Sokha, di­rector of the CCHR, to explain how he has been spending millions of dollars from the US on criticizing the government, rather than ap­plauding it for doing a good job, ac­cording to a recording of the fo­rum.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has lashed out several times at an un­identified human rights worker who observers believe is Kem Sok­ha.

Speaking in Kompong Cham province in November, the premier criticized a rights worker he named as Akuk Sora.He de­scrib­ed him as an irate critic who often took his assaults against Cambodia’s human rights record to the na­tion’s radio airwaves.

“Some foreign radios and foreigners buzz with him. They are job­less [in their country], so they try to do [human rights] work. If they did not cry like this, how could they get money?” Hun Sen said of his critic.

“If he used that money for pumping water, he would gain more popularity. But [instead] he goes and curses everywhere,” Hun Sen said.


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