The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cambodia: Right to Freedom of Assembly has Been Severely Violated



H.E. Ang Vong Vathna, Cambodia's Minister of Justice,
 and H.E. Sar Kheng, Cambodia's Minister of Interior
 (HONK KONG) - As a nation with a history of terrible violence, Cambodia needs to quickly and thoroughly address a very alarming situation; the shooting of three female garment workers in the Bavet town of Svay Rieng province on 20 February 2012.

Information indicates that the shooting took place as 6,000 workers gathered in solidarity in front of the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory; peacefully demonstrating to demand for better working conditions. They are asking for a minimum living wage of US$61/month and lunch allowance. During the demonstration, three unarmed women were shot; two suffering wounds to their arms or legs, and one was seriously injured as the bullet ripped through her thoracic cage.

Our goal with Eye on the World is to illustrate and highlight politically oriented problems and tragedies that traditional media channels don't have time or interest in covering.

The world has its own set of laws that were agreed upon by the ruling nations in 1948, and many people are not aware of this simple fact. At the root of the concept of world citizenry itself, is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an overriding and supreme law that ensures many essential human rights that governments today fail to observe. Also central to any hope of human success, is the understanding of the human hierarchy of needs, as defined by Abraham Maslow- more information on this at the conclusion of this entry. We must use the Internet as a tool of justice at every junction, and we need to assist all human beings, everywhere, and not allow cultural, racial or religious preferences as determiners.

In this letter to H.E. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice; and H.E. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior in Cambodia, William Gomes asks for the assurance that the victims in this case are provided with an “effective remedy notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons in an official capacity” - determined by a competent judicial authority, and that the government takes necessary steps to protect the fundamental right to freedom of assembly in Cambodia, which has been subjected to increasing restrictions. Mr Gomes strongly urges that the government ensure the victim's appearance in court, protect witnesses from intimidation, and issue a guarantee, that in the future, legal process will be carried out in a free, fair and impartial manner meeting international standards. He asks that those who violated the law be properly investigated and prosecuted.




March15, 2012
H.E. Ang Vong Vathna
Minister of Justice
No 240, Sothearos Blvd
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
Fax: +855 23 364119

H.E. Sar Kheng
Minister of Interior
No 275 Norodom Blvd
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
Fax: +855 23 721905, +85523 726052/721190

Re: Cambodia: Right to freedom of assembly has been severely violated

Your Excellencies,

I write to you to express our grave concerns regarding the shooting of three female garment workers in the Bavet town of Svay Rieng province on 20 February 2012.

I have received information that around 6,000 workers gathered in front of the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory in a peaceful demonstration to demand for better working conditions, including a minimum living wage of US$61/month and lunch allowance. While the demonstration was taking place, three unarmed women were shot; two suffered wounds to their arms or legs, one was seriously injured as the bullet ripped through her thoracic cage.

The perpetrator was later identified as being Bavet town’s own governor, Mr. Chhouk Bandit. Although the Minister of Interior, Mr. Sar Kheng, said publicly that Mr. Bandit was the sole suspect, the Court – under the direction of provincial chief prosecutor Hing Bun Chea – declined to issue an arrest warrant and instead settled with a summons on allegations that the report the police submitted was incomplete. He was briefly questioned by the police last week and later released. Mr. Bandit is expected to appear in court on 16 March 2012.

I deeply regret that the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of assembly has been severely violated by the use of excessive force, which resulted in the serious injuries of three of the demonstration’s participants.

I note that there is much fear concerning the safety and security of the three victims and their families. These concerns are well grounded since the victims were approached on numerous occasions by officials from Bavet, including the police chief and commune chiefs, attempting to silence them through bribes since the shooting incident. [1] The most severely injured victim, Ms. Buot Chinda, was allegedly approached by the town governor himself. [2] I believe that the government of Cambodia must protect these young women and their families. They should be immediately placed under witness protection. Individuals who came forward in helping identify the perpetrator should also be placed under protection. I also stress that these attempts to influence witnesses in the ongoing investigation could constitute an obstruction of justice and are criminal offences punishable under Cambodia’s Criminal Code. [3] Those attempting to influence the witnesses must be held accountable under the existing laws.

Although Mr. Bandit was dismissed from his position as a Bavet town governor on 8 March 2012, there remain concerns that he will enjoy impunity as he is a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The successive chain of events fails to reflect the gravity of the crimes: there was a notable delay in the police investigation as well in making the information about his involvement public. The recent refusal to issue him with an arrest warrant despite the culpatory evidence highlights the flaws present in the Cambodian legal and judicial systems. I strongly believe that the state is obligated to combat impunity for attacks and violations against its own people, by ensuring prompt and impartial investigations into allegations and appropriate redress and reparation to victims. In this regard, an arrest warrant on the alleged perpetrator should be issued without delay to ensure the safety of the victims, and to prevent him from influencing the investigation and legal proceedings of this case.

I would like to draw your attention to the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Mr. Surya Subedi, which highlighted concerns over the politicization of the judiciary and called for a separate entity to be solely in charge of the prosecutors – as opposed to being attached to the courts. [4] The unfolding of unfortunate events in the town of Bavet and the subsequent flawed investigation processes, have highlighted the cause for continued concerns in this regard.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) , the Government of Cambodia must ensure that the three victims are provided with an “effective remedy notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons in an official capacity” [5] and that it be determined by a competent judicial authority. We therefore strongly urge that the Government will ensure his appearance in court, protect all witnesses from intimidation, and guarantee that the upcoming legal process be carried out in a free, fair and impartial manner that meets international standards.

I further urge the Cambodian government to take the necessary steps to protect the fundamental right to freedom of assembly in Cambodia, which has been subjected to increasing restrictions. In this particular case, the Cambodian government’s ability to ensure justice for those whose rights have been severely violated and to hold the perpetrator accountable serves as a serious test of the Cambodian government’s will to uphold human rights, consistent with its own Constitution, the human rights principles of the ASEAN Charter, and international human rights law.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

William Nicholas Gomes

William’s Desk


www.williamgomes.org

Footnotes



[1] “Victim rejects ‘pay-off’”, The Phnom Penh Post, 8 March 2012, http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index….

[2] “Court avoids warrant for governor of Bavet”, The Phnom Penh Post, 6 March 2012, http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index….

[3] Article 527 of the Criminal Code of Cambodia prohibits intimidation in order to prevent filing of complaint: “Any threat or intimidation made against a victim with a view to persuading him or her not to file a complaint or to withdraw it shall be punishable by imprisonment from one to three years, and a fine from two million to six million Riels. It shall be punishable by imprisonment from two to five years and a fine from four million to ten million Riels if the act is effective.” Whereas Article 548 of the same law prohibits bribery of witness: “The direct or indirect giving of a gift, offer, promise or interest by a person to a witness in order: (1) not to testify; (2) to provide a false testimony; shall be punishable by imprisonment from five to ten years.”

[4] UNHRC, Report for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, 16 September 2010, A/HRC/15/46, para.71: “There should be a separate and independent office of the Prosecutor General with powers to supervise prosecutors at all levels and all prosecutors should belong to an independent office rather than be simply attached to the courts concerned.”

[5] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 2(3).

No comments: