Phnom Penh, 27 January 2014 – The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) strongly condemns the continued illegal and systematic crackdown on freedom of assembly in Cambodia. At least 10 people were injured, three seriously, by military police and hired thugs this morning when government critic and owner of independent Beehive Radio, Mam Sonando, attempted to demonstrate with supporters at Freedom Park and outside the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh. January has been a bloody month for the government; at least five people have been killed and scores more injured by security forces since the governments instigated a crackdown on assemblies.

The events today show this government’s brazen intolerance of freedom of assembly. It must immediately remove the unlawful ban on demonstrations.

Mam Sonando gathered with around 500 people near Wat Phnom to call on the government to grant Beehive a license for a television station, in addition to allowing it greater radio bandwidth. He had notified City Hall and the Ministry of Interior in advance as per the Demonstration Law, 2009, but the request was turned down on grounds it could affect security and public order. This was an illegitimate refusal as the planned rally did not present any threat to security and/or public order in the capital. Indeed, rallies in support of Mam Sonando when he was imprisoned on trumped-up charges in 2012 were universally peaceful.

ADHOC has repeatedly called on the Phnom Penh authorities to cease from using untrained security guards for crowd control. Instead the authorities are using these aggressive thugs more and more, in contravention of the Demonstration Law. Article 19 holds that:

“Competent authorities designated to maintain security, safety and public order at venues of peaceful assembly shall wear proper uniforms and display name plates and identity codes on the front parts of their uniforms and adhere to the attitude of absolute patience”[1]

The use of hired security guards in motorcycle helmets wielding electric batons as happened today clearly does not adhere to the description of “[c]ompetent authorities… [in] proper uniforms.”[2] Nor does the use of smoke grenades and excessive force suggest an “attitude of absolute patience.”[3]

ADHOC is gravely concerned that the government is abandoning the democratic principles enshrined in Cambodia’s constitution. The government has long held a monopoly over access to information in the country, with all television stations and most other media outlets either owned by or affiliated to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Therefore, it comes as little surprise that they continue to deny Mam Sonando’s request for greater bandwidth and a television station, even though Cambodia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which protects principles of freedom of expression and access to information under Article 19.

However, the new ban on assemblies and its continued violent enforcement is a step further away from any semblance of democracy in the country. It is particularly disappointing as the government showed for the most part following the election in 2013 that it could respect the right to freedom of assembly. In 2014 it has been a different story. The government seems to have mistakenly decided that legal principles of free assembly enshrined in the constitution and the ICCPR no longer apply to Cambodia.

The government musk wake up to its human rights obligations, lift the ban of free assembly and desist from violently attacking protesters who peacefully exercise this right.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Human Rights and Legal Aid Section: 011 274 959

Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant: 092 648 318;


[1][1]Article 19, Law on Peaceful Demonstration, 2009.

[2] Article 19, Law on Peaceful Demonstration, 2009.

[3] Article 19, Law on Peaceful Demonstration, 2009.