Cambodia: Freedom of Assembly in Freedom Park

Good news: Cambodians can now organize a protest action against the government without a fear of being violently dispersed by the police.

Bad news: Protests are only allowed in the newly established Freedom Park. And protesters need a permit to use the Freedom Park.

The Freedom Park is located far from government buildings and the parliament. Assemblies that number more than 200 are allowed if the organizers are able to secure a permit. The Freedom Park can accommodate about 5,000 people. The government has announced that protests in other areas will be outlawed.

Cambodia's Freedom Park. Political cartoon by Sacravatoons

Some bloggers have described the Freedom Park as “Round-up Park” or “Deprived Freedom Park.” The Son of the Khmer Empire reacts:

In my point of view this so-called freedom park is usless and it will be constitutionally used as a suppressing instrument for Hun Xen (Prime Minister of Cambodia) government to successfully deprive the freedom of the assembly of the people of Cambodia if the Demonstration Law is not amended.

The blogger is referring to the Demonstration Law which was passed last June 2009 which critics cited as a repressive legal measure. The law allows protests to take place only between 6am to 6pm in a designated freedom park.

But some commenters are happy with the establishment of a Freedom Park. Here is an anonymous commenter:

These so-called critics sound more like cynics to me. The fact that the city hall decides to set up a proper place for demonstration and voicing concern and you call this silencing? What do these people want?

Before, they said they are oppressed to cast any voice, now they are given a platform, they call it silencing

…not to mention choatic demonstration can block traffic make traffic jam, etc… good for authority to designate an area by law

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