Cambodia parliament votes to limit mass demonstrations

[JURIST] The Cambodian National Assembly [official website] approved legislation Wednesday banning demonstrations of more than 200 people. The bill, which passed [Phnom Penh Post report] Cambodia's lower house by a vote of 76-25, would also ban any gathering inside or outside the gates of factories or government buildings, and would require groups to obtain permission for planned demonstrations a minimum of 12 hours in advance. Officials from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) [party website] described the bill as an initiative to enhance security and public order. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party [party website] said that the legislation is a pretext to limit free speech [AFP report] and stifle dissent. The bill must be approved by the Cambodian Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni [official websites] before becoming law.

Earlier this month, the National Assembly approved [Phnom Penh Post report] a measure criminalizing defamation and insult, which was also opposed on free speech grounds. In August, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi [official profile] said that Cambodian restrictions on free speech were inconsistent [press release, PDF] with international standards. Subedi's comments came after the conviction [JURIST report] of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua on charges that he defamed Prime Minister Hun Sen [official profile]. By way of contrast, the South Korean Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] overturned a ban on nighttime assemblies last month, ruling it to be an unconstitutional [JURIST] violation of the right to free assembly. South Korea's Assembly and Demonstration law was enacted in 1962, also under the auspices of protecting national security and public order.

 

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