STATEMENT: ADHOC Condemns Harassment of NGO Worker and Obstruction of Rights of Boeung Kak Lake Protesers
Phnom Penh, 04 September 2013 – The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) condemns the harassment of Mr. Vann Sophath – Land Reform Coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) – and the obstruction to the legitimate right to freedom of assembly of the Boeung Kak Lake community by the Phnom Penh Municipal Police this morning.
Mr. Vann Sophath is a respected human rights worker who has been active in the protection and promotion of human rights in Cambodia since 1994. He was attempting to transport campaign materials such as T-shirts and lotus flowers in CCHR’s car for protesters from Phnom Penh’s forcibly evicted Boeung Kak Lake community. The protesters were set to march from their homes to pray at Wat Phnom to mark the anniversary of the detention of Mrs. Yorm Bopha, a land rights activist who was arrested, tried and imprisoned last year on charges widely regarded as spurious. They then planned to continue their march to the Supreme Court to demand it hear her case. The police prevented community members from going to Wat Phnom and the Supreme Court until later in the morning.
Police insisted on searching CCHR’s car, despite the fact that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Vann Sophath. CCHR requested the presence of the prosecutor at the search.
The protesters were initially prevented from marching, though the march did go ahead after the intervention of rights groups and observers. Freedom of assembly is guaranteed under Article 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is also provided for under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 20 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which are incorporated into Cambodian law under Article 31 of the Constitution.
Rights violations against the Boeung Kak Lake community have been systematic since they were forcibly evicted from their homes in January 2012. Mrs. Yorm Bopha remains in prison, having been convicted in a trial at which the witnesses were repeatedly shown to be unreliable.
The authorities demonstrated grave incompetence this morning. Not only have they harassed an NGO worker carrying out his legitimate human rights work, they have again shown that they are unwilling to tolerate protest. The actions of the authorities this morning are in clear violation of Cambodian law. ADHOC calls on the authorities to implement Cambodia’s laws relating to freedom of assembly and refrain from any further infringement on this right in the future. Activists and NGOs must be allowed to work to promote and protect human rights without undue interference by the authorities if Cambodia is earnest in its commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Human Rights and Legal Aid Section: 011 274 959
Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant: Human Rights and Legal Aid Section; 092 648 318; firstname.lastname@example.org