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Peace Marchers Meet Difficulties on Road to Capital

Cambodian Buddhist monks walk by the crowd, file photo.
Cambodian Buddhist monks walk by the crowd, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - Peace marchers for Human Rights Day continue to make their way across the country, six days into a ten day walk to Phnom Penh.

Victims of land abuse, workers who want better rights, activists and monks are all taking place in a march that began Dec. 1 in various provinces and will converge on the capital Dec. 10.

But the marchers have met with difficulties on the road, especially in finding shelter each night, participants said.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor program for the Community Legal Education Center, said he had walking more than 100 kilometers along National Road 1, where many pagodas had locked their gates to travelers.

Bun Ting, a monk who lead marchers from Pursat, said some pagodas had “discriminated” against marchers, whom they accused as being political.

The march will end on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10.

Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst said the approaching international recognition of human rights needs to be better heeded, by the international community and Cambodia alike.

“Although there is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some countries, including Cambodia, don’t apply it,” he told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

Cambodia’s brutal history has meant serious rights abuses, he said. “That’s why they have to take action, especially to prevent such human rights violations.”

Cambodia has been roundly criticized for a deterioration in its human rights environment in recent years—with brutal state crackdowns on protesters, forced evictions and the imprisonment of government dissidents.

Lao Mong Hay said none of this lines up with the principles of human rights espoused in the international declaration.

“There should be a priority on the freedom of expression, because its a human right,” he said. “Public order” is a lower priority, he said, though authorities rarely recognized this. And, he said, human rights lead to human dignity and liberty.

“How can it be honored if the leaders are the leaders of slaves,” he said. “As I understand it, that is not dignity.”