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Cambodian government security forces walk in front of the Council of Ministers building as they patrol along a street ahead of the 21st ASEAN Summit and other related summits in Phnom Penh on 13 November 2012. (Reuters)
Activists harassed, threatened ahead of ASEAN summit

in CAMBODIA, 18/11/2012

Grassroots activists from across Southeast Asia have been harassed and intimidated by Cambodian authorities this week, in what has been described as an effort to silence civil society voices ahead of this weekend’s Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Phnom Penh.

At least five different venues set to host civil society forums ahead of the ASEAN summit cancelled their agreements at the last minute under government pressure, according to activists. Reports suggest that officials turned up late on Tuesday night to issue threats to hosting organisations and business owners, even shutting off the electricity in two buildings.

“In at least two instances the venue owners were pressured behind the scenes by authorities, even as the same authorities publicly stated that they had no objections,” said Sar Mora, one of organisers of the ASEAN grassroots peoples’ assembly (AGPA).

The AGPA held their opening ceremony in the dark on Tuesday night, after the electricity in the restaurant meant to host the event was turned off. According to AGPA, more than 100 local activists were later evicted from their guesthouses in the middle of the night after police interference. Meanwhile, the ASEAN peoples’ forum and civil society conference was forced to relocate several miles outside the city on Wednesday, where activists pitched up canopies on a grass field overlooking the Mekong river.

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