Cambodian CSOs Commemorate 67th Anniversary of International Human Rights Day Under the theme “Promoting of Freedom of Expression”

Today, on 10 December 2015, civil society organizations in Cambodia are celebrating the 67th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) under the theme “Promoting of Freedom of Expression” in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia.

In addition to the public, we have invited the President of the National Assembly Samdech Akeak Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, Minister of Information H.E Khiev Kanharith, foreign diplomats of the European Commission, ambassadors of Japan and the United States, and the country representative of UN OHCHR in Cambodia, to join us in marking this important event.

On this historical day, civil society in Cambodia would like to express its deepest gratitude to human rights defenders and activists around the world, especially to those in Cambodia who have dedicated and devoted their lives to the protection of human rights and have been imprisoned.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the UDHR on December 10, 1948. The UDHR sets out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men, women and children throughout the world are entitled without distinction as to race, color, gender, ethnicity, religion, culture, political opinion, social status or origin, wealth, sexual orientation and others.

We, the civil society organizations, commemorate International Human Rights Day to simultaneously show our support for the UDHR, while expressing our concerns over the ongoing restrictions and violations of fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression. We wish to join in solidarity with the human rights advocates, activists, and institutions that are defending human rights throughout Cambodia.

According to Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1993 , the Royal Government of Cambodia is bound by law to respect and protect freedom of expression, as one of fundamental rights afforded under domestic and international law.

We recognize the government’s positive efforts to reform a number of development sectors (education, public health, revenue mobilization and local governance) and bodies by appointing a new spokesman from the opposition party in the National Assembly and gradually increasing wages of armed forces, civil servants and garment workers.

However, we are extremely concerned about the continuous repressions of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression in relation to several laws that have recently been enacted, including the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) and the election laws. These laws have been passed with little to no consultation with civil society or relevant stakeholders. Similarly, the pending and worrisome Trade Union Law, Cybercrime Law, and Telecommunications Law will be probably passed without proper consultation. Close examination reveals the ability of these laws to narrowly restrict fundamental freedoms, including the rights to freedom of expression. Our first line of defense is to extensively document the ongoing human rights violations in Cambodia. At present, there are numerous violations occurring throughout the country, including physical and judicial harassment over critics of the government – most recently evidenced by the attacks on the two opposition law makers in front of the National Assembly; violations of land rights, including the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights regarding their collective land and forests; a lack of adherence to fair trial standards; and a continued systematic abuse of labor rights.

Recent developments of the political situation in the country in connection with freedom of expression show that Cambodia is moved away from the road of democracy and the Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia.

In light of such on-going human rights abuses, we strongly urge the Royal Government of Cambodia, the National Assembly, the Senate, and the courts to consider the following measures:

  • Call on the power leaders to be more open for feedback for the prosperity of the nation, to promote freedom of expression and democracy, and to restore culture of dialogue in Cambodia;
  • Establish an effective mechanism for the clarification of LANGO, in order to provide more space to exercise freedom of expression, which will benefit not only civil society but also Cambodian society as a whole by allowing the promotion of human rights through training and workshops;
  • Amend the election laws to ensure that freedom of expression and assembly are fully protected for civil society organizations to engage fully in the election process without interference from the authorities;
  • Integrate comments and input from civil society before adopting further laws, and in particular review the Trade Union Law to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, and improve their working conditions and standard of living, and the Cybercrime Law to protect freedom of expression and the Internet rights;
  • Put an end to the judicial harassment of human rights defenders, opposition politicians, trade unions, and activists;
  • Release unconditionally all land, environmental and political activists and human rights defenders who have been imprisoned due to their activism and political activities;
  • Hold accountable perpetrators who have committed violations of human rights against journalists, opposition lawmakers, garment workers and trade unionists; and
  • Commit to fulfilling Cambodia’s obligations to protect human rights and establish effective mechanisms to provide remedy for victims when violations occur;

We also urge all citizens to be united as the owner of the country to exercise freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Cambodia through active participation in monitoring politicians. Once again, promoting freedom of expression in Cambodia

For more information, please contact:

  • Mr. Thun Saray Chairman of CHRAC and President of ADHOC Tel: 016 440 044
  • Mr. Soeung Saroeun Executive Director of CCC Tel: 016 900 503
  • Mr. Tek Vannara Executive Director of The NGO Forum on Cambodia Tel: 012 793 489
  • Mr. Ath Thorn President of CLC Tel: 012 998 906
  • Mrs. Chet Chakrya Executive Director of Star Kampuchea Tel: 012 802 460
  • Mr. Sao Vansey Executive Director of ICSO Tel: 012 813 744
  • Mr. Ngeth Thy Executive Director of CCPCR Tel: 012 729 895
  • Mr. Suon Bunsak Chief of Secretariat of CHRAC Tel: 092 344 357
  • Ms. Sopheap Chak, Executive Director of CCHR Tel: 011 943 213
  • Mr. Ngin Soarath, Executive Director, CDPO Tel: 012 851 841
  • Mr. Sia Phearum, Executive Director, HTRF Tel: 012 852 325