Cambodia: Free speech not welcome at ASEAN NGO conference-Prachatai
April 4, 2012
Cambodia Curtails Freedom of Expression at ASEAN Civil Society Conference
Community Peace Building Network, Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact and Burma Partnership: March 30, 2012
Four workshops organized by civil society organizations were forced late last night to move their workshops to La Palaranda hotel, away from the main venue of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN People’s Forum (APF), the Lucky Star Hotel (on Street 336, Phnom Penh). Three of the workshops dealt with land rights, eviction and environment issues and the fourth focused on Burma’s currentpolitical and human rights situation and the challenges this poses to the country’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014.
The workshops were “Expansion of Mono-Culture Plantations in ASEAN: Impacts to forest, farmlands and people livehood”, and “Promote and Protect Rights to Land Territory, Natural Resources and Development of Indigenous People/Ethnic Minorites”, and “Regional Workshop on Land Rights and Eviction” and “Promoting Regional Cooperation to Ensure a People-Centered ASEAN in 2014 in Burma/Myanmar”.
“Not only are we facing eviction from our land, we are now also being evicted from this civil society process,” said Seng Sokheng, member of the National Working Group of the Community Peace Building Network. “We came here to join the ACSC/APF because we believed it was a space for us to explain our issues and share them with fellow civil society from the region. Cambodia has tarnished its image by evicting us like this.”
“Indigenous people in the region are constantly marginalized. Rather than providing us an opportunity to raise our concerns on the non-recognition of our collective rights, we are being further marginalized. This is completely unacceptable,” said Richard Gadit, Human Rights Advocacy Officer of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact.
“We planned to hold our workshop at this ACSC/APF to talk about the challenges of creating an open space for independent civil society, using the example of Cambodia to learn lessons to use in Burma in 2014. The lesson we have learned is that ASEAN countries don’t respect freedom of expression,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership. “If this is happening here in Cambodia, imagine what will happen in Burma where the right to freedom of expression is already violated on a daily basis.”