The new Freedom Park will open within the next three months and will be renamed Democracy Square, according to City Hall yesterday.
City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey told Khmer Times yesterday that renovations to the new park, located in a more remote location along National Road 5 in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, started earlier this week.
“We may have to spend at most three months for preparation to be completed and have it operational. We won’t call this location Freedom Park anymore, we will call it Democracy Square,” he said.
Mr. Pheakdey added that the new location would be more advantageous than the old location, which was in a highly visible area in the city center close to government institutions.
He said the new location would have a garden and if there was no gathering, citizens could relax or exercise there.
If there was a gathering, they could use the location to protest and express themselves.
“Preparation of the new location is not completely the same as the old location. We are creating some standing areas to celebrate events and some areas will be organized like a garden with public seating,” he said.
“We will also install spotlights and toilets and have a parking lot at the location.”
Mr. Pheakdey said the new location was more beautiful and more spacious, especially the parking lot, which was not available at the old location.
“We will turn the old location into a garden. If there are any requests to have a gathering before the new location is up and running, we will consider allowing them to use the old location,” he added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the relocation of Freedom Park in December, but City Hall in June said it was considering a move, claiming the park created disorder as it was too small for the number of citizens who regularly used it.
Mr. Hun Sen asked City Hall to turn the old place into a garden and have an area for disabled people to perform.
Since the premier’s announcement, civil society groups have decried the relocation, saying it was an attempt by the government to silence dissenters by putting them out of sight and away from the busy city center.
Rights group Licadho said the new location would negate the very principle of Freedom Park as people who go to the new site to protest would not have their voices heard.
Freedom Park, in Daun Penh district, opened on November 4, 2010, with 1,200 square meters of space for people or organizations to gather for protests or strikes.
Activities at the park were temporarily suspended in early January 2014, but it reopened in August that year.
Residents living nearby have long complained about the crowds and the noise and will be happy to see it moved.
Source: Khmer Times