The U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association, Maina Kiai, on Friday wrapped up a three-day unofficial visit to Cambodia by paying a visit to the Boeng Kak community, the site of the country’s longest-running land dispute.
“From what I’ve seen in the past few days here, Cambodia is going to be close to me and my work,” Mr. Kiai, a Kenyan lawyer, said after being welcomed by about 100 residents of the area who waved U.S. flags and held balloons that read “we need U.N.”
Inside the home of high-profile Boeng Kak activist Tep Vanny, Mr. Kiai was shown a large board plastered with the images of bloodied community members injured during a peaceful, candlelight vigil at Wat Phnom last year.
“I want to emphasize the fact that the right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental right and the key to it is that it’s nonviolent, it’s peaceful,” Mr. Kiai told the community. “The government has absolutely no right, no responsibility, to kill people when they march peacefully. That is not acceptable under international law. The use of force needs to be proportional and it needs to be measured as well,” he said.
On January 4, the government imposed a blanket ban on public gatherings. On Thursday, Mr. Kiai called for the ban to be lifted during a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.