Harsh Crackdown on Peaceful Assembly at Wat Phnom Results in Five Injured

Created Date : 18 / Oct / 2013
Nature of Violation :
Rights Involved : Freedom of Assembly


On 18 October 2013, a large group of youths and monksgathered at Wat Phnom pagoda to perform a traditional ceremony and pray for Mr.Mao Sok Chan, a 29 year old father of four who lost his life during the clashat Kbal Thnol bridge on the night of 15 September 2013. This morning’sgathering, that started off peacefully, transformed into a violentconfrontation with security forces resulting in at least five people, includingone foreign freelance journalist, receiving minor injuries. Four of the injureddemonstrators were Ung Sohy, Tep Vanny, Heng Samnang and Keo Narong. Theforeign journalist has not yet been named. The organizers of the gathering had originally planned tomarch to the First Instance Court after the ceremony at Wat Phnom in order tosubmit a petition calling for an investigation into the death of Mao Sok Chan.The petition also called for increased independence of television stations, removingcensorship and allowing stations to accurately report the real events that occurin Cambodian society. The organizers were prevented fromcarrying out their plan by the Daun Penh security forces whodisrupted the group at Wat Phnom. They refused to allow the participants andmonks to perform the ceremony for Mr. Mao Sok Chan and attempted to confiscatethe group’s materials. The security forces also attempted to seize the camerasof journalists and observers who were monitoring the event. The confrontationescalated when the participants tried to protect their materials and equipment.The event organizers submitted a letter of notification tothe Phnom Penh Municipal Hall on 11 October 2013 informing the authorities ofthe event, as required under Cambodia’s Law on Peaceful Assembly (the“Demonstration Law”). However, due to an alleged administrative error, staff atthe Phnom Penh Municipal Hall rejected the letter. The letter was submittedagain on 16 October 2013 but received a negative response apparently as aresult of late submission. The rejection of the notification however wasillegitimate, as the Demonstration Law requires that as long as groups notifythe municipal authorities five days prior to the planned demonstration, theauthorities are then required to permit the gathering. Although the secondnotification was not sent until 16 October, City Hall had already been notifiedof the demonstration on 11 October, even if the notification letter containedan administrative error. The rejection of legitimate demonstrationnotifications by the Phnom Penh Municipality has become a regular occurrenceduring the current political stand off in Cambodia. It is the responsibility ofthe municipal authorities to facilitate these demonstrations and to maintainthe peace, not to unnecessarily restrict free expression and assembly.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Ms.Chhay Chhunly, CCHR HumanRights Defender Project Coordinator via telephone at +855 (0) 17 528 021 or emailat [email protected] Ms. Sorn Ramana, TheCambodian Freedom of Expression Project Coordinator via telephone at +855 (0) 17 655 591 oremail at [email protected].