NGOs Appeal to Government

Source: Khmer Times / Friday, 10 June 2016 by May Titthara

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Workers have been a major facet of protests against recent government arrests of civil society officials. KT/Mai Vireak

Forty-one international NGOs signed a joint letter to the government this week, appealing for the promotion, protection and respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms of the Cambodian people in light of what they called harassment by the judiciary and armed forces.
“Recent events…lead us to believe that a number of civil society organizations that promote accountability and transparency have been considered by the government as a threat to the stability of Cambodia,” the appeal, dated Wednesday and submitted to Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon says, and adds that those organizations are vital to the growth and prosperity of the Kingdom.
It goes on to appeal to the government to promote, protect and respect the rights and fundamental freedoms of Cambodian people as stipulated in international charters on human rights and to ensure that there is no arrest of Cambodian people if their actions are not contrary the law.
The letter comes in response to recent moves by the country’s ruling party as well as the judiciary to clamp down on members of civil society and the political opposition. Four officials from rights group Adhoc are now detained along with one opposition-appointed member of the National Election Committee for reasons widely criticized as politically motivated.
Police are also actively seeking the arrest of acting opposition leader Kem Sokha on charges linked to an as yet unsubstantiated sex scandal despite the immunity granted to Mr. Sokha as a politician.
The letter also asks the government to “ensure that there is no judicial harassment against Cambodian citizens who are working to protect people’s rights.”
Despite the cries from both inside and outside the country that Cambodia is in the midst of a political crisis, on Tuesday Prime Minister Hun Sen said the current political situation is not a crisis. He then appealed to other countries not to interfere with Cambodia’s internal affairs.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that while he was grateful for the attention from the large number the international organizations, he regretted the content of their statement as it does not reflect his version of reality in the Kingdom.
“People who commit illegal acts, although they are in an organization, they are still under the jurisdiction of the law,” Mr. Siphan said.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at rights group Licadho, said the political and human rights environments in the Kingdom has darkened.
“The government has always criticized civil society organizations that work to serve the opposition party,” Mr. Sam Ath said.

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