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City Denies Permission for Union March Sunday

Cambodian non-governmental organizations workers shout slogans during a demonstration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2004. Local aid workers marched through Phnom Penh to urge the donors to press Cambodia to remove restrictions on demonstrations, promote rule o

Phnom Penh authorities say they will not allow a union demonstration against rising prices of food, fuel and other living expenses.

The newly established Cambodian National Confederation for Laborers Protection, had requested permission from the city to hold its march Sunday, but were told instead that only a maximum 200 people would be allowed to gather at the city’s Freedom Park.

Chey Sovan, a vice president of the union, said they would bring 1,500 people to the park, although they would not march as planned. Workers are upset at the rising cost of living, and are demanding the government intervene to lower the prices of food, fuel and other goods.

The union said it has already filed a request to Prime Minister Hun Sen to help alleviate the pressure of the rising costs but had so far had no response. It plans to gather workers, teachers, motorcycle taxi drivers and other workers in protest.

Keurth Che, deputy administration director for Phnom Penh, said in a statement the city would not allow a march. The organizers will be fully responsible for the security of an assembly and must ensure it does not affect the business of government or dignitaries and is not done at the behest of any political party, he said.

Chey Sovan called the city’s refusal was counter to the freedom of expression.

“I think they have a fair right [to hold a march],” said Chan Saveth, lead monitor for the rights group Adhoc. “They are implementing their role in rights and freedoms to show their opinion to the royal government. But if the royal government prevents them from holding a march that reflects the democratic process, it can make this situation a threat to them not to implement their rights and freedoms.”