Capping off a week of unsuccessful challenges to arbitrary laws that prevent people from attempting to protest in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, opposition CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua was on Friday forcibly removed from the area for the fourth time.
Although it was designated an official protest site in 2011, the park was violently emptied of opposition party supporters in January and has lain largely empty since, save for a few casual footballers and people going for a stroll.*
“We need to come to Freedom Park for our lives, our national lives and our freedom,” Ms. Sochua said as she was again surrounded by a phalanx of helmeted Daun Penh district security guards.
“We will celebrate our traditions for the new year and we wish you happiness in your lives…. We are not trying to make Cambodians enemies of each other, but you follow your duties while I try to respect my freedom,” Ms. Sochua said.
She then tried to read out excerpts from the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
“The government has to condemn all kinds of discrimination against women,” she said.
“Do you understand whether our government has protected the rights of the women or not? I want to clarify that this location is for the whole nation and it is not only for men. Therefore, today, I, one of Cambodia’s women, have come here to express my views at Freedom Park for the fourth time.”
One of the security guards swore at Ms. Sochua, asking her why she had bothered to come, adding that she was a “stupid, crazy woman.”
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche could not be reached.
Kim Vutha, head of the district security guard unit, said: “Don’t ask me.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said he did not know why the authorities would not allow the lawmaker to use the park. “I think she can go along [to Freedom Park],” he said.
“People can go in, but I don’t know why she got kicked out. Boyfriends and girlfriends go there, so I don’t know why she got kicked out,” he said, before hanging up.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)
dara@cambodiadaily.com
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