|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
The Civil Society Committee of ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People Forum (ACSC/APF 2012) is deeply disturbed to announce the repeated actions by the Cambodian authorities to disturb the peaceful assembly of the people and civil society from the Cambodia and ASEAN region.
The ACSC/APF Committee is currently concerned as it planned activities have been forced to change twice already this week for the Second ACSC/APF on 14-16 November 2012.
The ACSC/APF Committee had booked two places in order to organize this event on the above date. However the planned and booked location was cancelled due to actions by Cambodian authorities. We are concerned the third time will be even more destructive and in violation of basic human right to assembly.
First, on the 10th November 2012, a group of unidentified local authorities came to disturb the owner of the CEF, which is an independent church. Due to this action of intimidation, the church requested us to cancel the regional conference.
Second, on the 13th November 2012, another group of unidentified local authorities came to talk with the owner of the new location (Modern Center 5). The owner immediately decided to cancel the contract with the ACSC/APF Committee once again. The owner claimed that he got instruction from the top authority.
These freedoms of assembly, association and expression are fully guaranteed by both the Cambodian Constitution and the Constitutions of other ASEAN member states as well as International Human Rights instruments. We note that the initiative to organize ACSC/APF is in line with the aim of the ASEAN Charter, to promote “a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate, and benefit from the process of ASEAN integration and community building” (Article 1.1.3).
We are now in an emergency Civil Society Committee to respond and guarantee public safety and security for the 500 participants from Cambodia and the ASEAN region, including international guests.
We regret this consistent pattern of abuse and intimidation at the hands of the authorities. The Committee is still trying to approach the third location (which will be soon announced) tomorrow as we are still committed to organize. However, we are still worry that the government will intimidate our event again. We reach out to global civil society and national NGOs to stand together in solidarity for the basic fundamental freedoms in Cambodia. The purpose of our conference is to bring the voices and concerns of the civil society and people of ASEAN to the ASEAN heads of state and world leaders during the 21st ASEAN Summit. This goal can’t be reached if the authorities continue to escalate and prevent this civil society conference.
The Committee had done its due diligence to positively inform and involve the municipality and national government officials leading up to the conference. The Committee had submitted subsequent notification letters to both Phnom Penh Municipality and Ministry of Interior about this event. We had approached many senior government officials including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and the Council of Ministers. However, there was no positive response from them, neglecting the notification and invitation letters from the ACSC/APF Committee.