A leading political analyst says the ruling party has confused the rights of free speech and expression with political opposition, especially as people gather to protest policies or injustices.
“As long as people use the rights and freedoms stipulated in the constitution and other agreements of human rights in the world…there should be the application and use of those rights and freedoms,” said Lao Monghay, who is a regular guest on “Hello VOA.”
Government officials have begun to equate criticism with opposition, he said. “I think this is a stereotype that is wrong according to the meaning and practical application of many liberal and democratic countries.”
Cambodia is a democracy and signatory to international agreements on rights, he said. Criticism is a part of that, he said. “They should look at the constitution in terms of the obligation of people.”
Citizens have the right to participate in politics, economics, society, culture—including peaceful protests and assembly, he said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the government is trying to improve its policies and better include civil society and the international community.