by Kizito Ssekitooleko, CIVICUS Intern, Geneva.
On 28th January 2014, I attended the 18th Session of the United Nations Universal Period Review (UPR) on Cambodia. I also had the privilege of attending two side meetings held before the UPR and organized by World Association for the School as an Instrument of Peace and International PEN and its Partners. Several disturbing revelations on restrictions on the operation of human rights activists came up during the side meetings and the UPR on Cambodia.
In early January, 2014, the authoritarian regime of Cambodia passed a blanket ban on the right to exercise free assembly in Cambodia. Following this ban, all attempts by the citizens of Cambodia as well as civil society organizations to exercise their right to assemble as guaranteed in the Constitution of Cambodia are met with excessive use of force and use of lethal ammunition from police, the military and plain clothed security personnel. For example, on 3rd January, 2014, Cambodia government, using excessive force quelled a peaceful demonstration of garment workers asking a higher wage. In January, 2014, Cambodian security officers also brutally attacked peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against a government decision refusing Mr. Mam Sonando, a strong government critic and human rights defender to launch a new television channel in Phnom Penh. On 26th January, 2014, a planned demonstration organized by some Labour Unions and associations in Cambodia was stopped in advance by the deployment of the military and other security personnel at the site where peaceful demonstrators were to assemble.