Phnom Penh Municipality has denied a request from human rights organizations to hold a public parade to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec 10, officials said Friday.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 21 local organizations, submitted a request on Nov 4 seeking permission for some 2,000 people to mark the anniversary by walking from Wat Lanka to the park in front of Wat Botum, a distance of a few hundred meters.
The municipality’s Deputy Cabinet Chief Kim Vathnak Thida informed CHRAC on Thursday that Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has denied permission for the parade, CHRAC Executive Secretary-General Suon Sareth said Friday.
“City Hall says it is okay for us to meet at one place, but the request to walk, City Hall doesn’t want us to do so,” Suon Sareth said.
Contacted on Friday, Kim Vathnak Thida said the municipality had not entirely denied the groups’ request, and that the decision was based on advice from the Interior Ministry.
“They asked [for permission] for a rally involving thousands of people,” she said, adding that “big rallies” require Interior Ministry approval.
If CHRAC is not happy, they should take Kep Chuktema’s letter disallowing the parade to the Interior Ministry, she added.
Suon Sareth said that he would do just that, but he needed Kep Chuktema to actually send a letter to CHRAC stating that the parade could not proceed on Wednesday.
“Everyone is celebrating in the world,” Suon Sareth added. “This shows a lack of conscience in the promotion of human rights in Cambodia.”
“We have usually seen other big rallies on the streets such as those about AIDS, but for the issue of human rights, it is different,” he added.
Kep Chuktema could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Friday that he could not say whether or not the parade would be allowed, as he too hadn’t yet received a letter yet from Kep Chuktema.
And Khieu Sopheak joked of the expectant human rights marchers: “If they want to walk, [they can] do exercise at home.”