Theater Judged a Threat to National Security

War and gangster movies may be staple viewing in Phnom Penh, but plans for a theater group to promote a human rights message in the provinces has been deemed a national security threat by the Interior Ministry, a rights organization said  Wednesday.

In a letter to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, the Interior Ministry said it could not give permission for public theater performances on democracy and election education in Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear provinces.

Such public performance were too risky, co-Interior Ministers Sar Kheng and You Hockry said in the letter to the organization.

“The Ministry of Interior does not reject this request to conduct education and disseminating about democracy and human rights to the citizens living in various provinces and cities in the King­dom of Cambodia,” according to a copy of the ministers’ letter.

“But the Ministry of Interior does not allow [you] to conduct the education and disseminate by theater because it may affect the protection of public order and security,” they said.

“People in remote areas do not have access to media…so we like to explain to people the principle of democracy and using rights in the election,” Pa Nguon Teang said. The Interior minister gave no explanation why public theater was a danger to the stability of the country, Pa Nguon Teang said.

The same theater group had already conducted similar performances for other organizations without a problem, he added.

Blasting the ruling, CCHR Director Kem Sokha claimed the government is stifling the “free flows of information” ahead of the July 27 general election.

Kem Sokha, who launched CCHR with funding from the US-based International Republican Institute, noted that he was re­cently refused a radio station license. “How long will [the government] continue to violate principles guaranteed in the Consti­tution?” Kem Sokha asked in a statement.

A ministry spokesman said  Wednesday he was unfamiliar with the letter. Sar Kheng said by phone Wednesday he is receiving medical treatment outside Cambodia.

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