Friday, 11.7.2008: Civil Society Worries about Freedom of Expression in Cambodia Which Is Becoming More Restricted for Both Journalists and for the People

Posted on 12 July 2008. Filed under: Week 568 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 568

“Officials of local human rights organizations said that Khmer people begin to dare to express their opinion regarding problems they deal with. However, the freedom of expression of citizens is limited and often not welcome by the authorities. ‘Nowadays, they threaten us to leave, and if we do not follow their orders, they will not agree. Now, they are observing us; people living to the West of our place seldom talk. Sorry! Now soldiers arrive, I would like to stop talking. They are following me.’

“The above words are the words of two women living in Kampot, who tried to tell journalists about being followed by local authorities, like also other people in the district who are being evicted from their land.

“Regarding the freedom of expression of these citizens, the president of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO] Ms. Pong Chiv Kek [also known as Dr. Kek Galabru] stated that in the last few years, the authorities try to prohibit that people gather to express their opinion – but the authorities object by raising security concerns as their reasons.

“Ms. Pong Chiv Kek said, ‘Especially, when workers want to hold a demonstration for something, they hardly ever obtained a permission, though they apply. Our government restricts gathering and marches to express opinions. Sometimes, just expressing something about the borders, there will be problems – the government uses the court to punish those who have expressed their own opinions.’

“Ms. Pong Chiv Kek, observing the situation of the freedom of expression in Cambodia, added, ‘In a democratic regime, the government is created by the people, and such a government will work for the people; if it is a government created by the people, it must join with the people to develop the country. So the government must contribute by providing enough information that the government does this and does that, it provides forest concession to whom, it wants to build a dam there, or want to develop something here; the people must be provided with enough of this type of information. If the people have obtained such information, they have to gather and to talk; for this, they need freedom of expression.’

“Institutions to which the problem of freedom of expression in Cambodia relates, includes the law drafting institutions, the law implementing institutions, the courts, institutions which provide public information, non-government organizations, and also citizens in general.

“The Cambodian Center for Human Rights president, Mr. Ou Virak, who observes the situation of freedom of expression in Cambodia, stated that Khmer citizens nowadays dare to express their opinions regarding problems they are facing. However their free expression is hindered by the authorities.

Mr. Ou Virak added that Cambodia has laws as well as a Constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression. But on the other side, those laws are not fairly applied by the authorities. He continued, ‘If we look at the implementation, we have police, judicial officials including prosecutors, and the government – important agencies to implement the law, but nowadays, judicial officials, who have the duty to implement the law show much bias. They do not allow people to express their opposing opinions, and even people within a party can often talk only about their party, without being able to talk also about negative points.’

“Mr. Ou Virak went on to say, ‘‘As for the media, Cambodia has laws regulating the flow of information, but those laws have not been implemented efficiently to protect journalists. He added, ‘We see that recently, the courts have been used to restrict the freedom of expression by closing a radio station, and by arresting Dam Sith [the Editor-in-Chief of Moneaksekar Khmer], while there are cases where the government did not investigate the cases threatening and physically abusing journalists or activist who are not on the side of the Cambodian People’s Party. Therefore we say that the courts have not fulfilled their duties; contrarily, they are used by the government to restrict the freedom of expression.’

“Mr. Pen Samithi, the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said that the freedom of expression and press freedom in Cambodia are on the way of improving during these last few years. He added, ‘If we want that people act like in a country where there is Internet in almost all houses, this is impossible. But in practice Cambodia has the ability for qualified action we can take well, but we have to try more, to catch up with other countries, because we are far behind, including in technology and in other fields.’

“However, Mr. Pen Samithi stated also that journalists still face many difficulties to find sources of information, especially information about the government relating to politics.

“Recently, besides the arrest of some journalists on the accusation of defamation and disinformation, according to an investigative report of LICADHO, at least three citizens have been shot dead by the authorities when protesting for land in Preah Vihear province.

“In 2008, Mr. Chan Savet, an investigative officer of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC – said that because of the land protest, at least 36 citizens have been detained, and 6 citizens are under being searched.” Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3356, 11.7.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 11 July 2008


Chakraval, Vol.16, #2792, 11.7.2008

  • The Enthusiasm about the Preah Vihear Temple Makes the Election Propaganda Move to the Background; Not Many People Are Interested in It


Chouy Khmer, Vol.2, #131, 11.7.2008

  • Samdech Euv [Father King Norodom Sihanouk] Asks Khmer and Siem [Thai] Citizens to Maintain Good Relations by Not Considering the Preah Vihear Temple as a Dispute [according to his letter issued on 9 July 2008]


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1690, 11.7.2008

  • The Government Allows Citizens to Have Children as They Want, but They Must Take Care of Their Health [according to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s letter to welcome the World Population Day on 11 July 2008]
  • The Phnom Penh Municipality Plans to Order Private Companies to Create Bus Stations [for long distance buses coming to Phnom Penh] at Suburban Phnom Penh [to reduce traffic congestion in town – according to Mr. Chea Bunthoeun, director of the office of transportation of the Department of Public Works and Transport]
  • Sudan Militants Raided and Killed Seven UN Soldiers in Darfur [9 July 2008]
    G8 Leaders Promise to Solve Food and Oil Crisis


Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #196, 11.7.2008

  • [Opposition Party president] San Rainsy: The Evidences We Have in Our Hands and the Witnesses Are Enough to Win against Hor Namhong by Law


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #46, 11.7.2008

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh] Mr. Son Chhay Asks [Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior] Sar Kheng to Take Action against Cars That Have No Number Plates [but are used for the election campaign]
  • Cambodia Plans to Send Laborers to Work in Qatar [according to undersecretary of state of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training Oum Mean]


Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6394, 11.7.2008

  • More than 10 Million Ballots and 32,000 Bottles of Non-Erasable Ink [to mark one finger of people who have cast their ballot] Are Prepared for the Election
  • Thai Foreign Affairs Minister [Noppadon Pattama] Resigned – 10 July 2008 – from His Position [after the Thai Constitutional Court decided that his 18 June 2008 signature on the Joint Communique with Cambodia about the Preah Vihear Temple violated the constitution as he did not ask for parliamentary approval]


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4638, 11.7.2008

  • Prince Sisowath Thomico Is Not Happy with Sam Rainsy Who Uses His Parents’ Name Regarding the Lawsuit [by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong]
  • Singapore Petroleum Company Started to Drill Oil in Block B [since 8 July 2009] [some ownership information: “SPC Cambodia Ltd (“SPC Cambodia”) holds a 33.33% participating interest in Block B. SPC Cambodia was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands as a wholly-owned subsidiary of SPC Production Company Ltd. which in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SPC.”]


Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3356, 11.7.2008

  • Civil Society Worries about Freedom of Expression in Cambodia Which Is Becoming More Restricted for Both Journalists and for the People
  • Do Authorities Close Ms. Chea Ratha’s Case by the Power of Money? [regarding an acid attack on TV presenter Ms. In Soklida’s aunt]

Have a look at the last editorial – Without freedom of information AND an active use of this freedom, emotions can easily lead to dangerous misunderstandings.

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