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Political Parties Vow To Protect Freedom of Expression

Police try to confiscate kites from protestors during a kite flying titled "Kite for Freedom of Expression" in a park near the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - Seven of eight political parties scheduled to run in the July election pledged on Tuesday to improve Cambodians’ freedom of expression.

“People must have a right to gather, to strike, to submit petitions to the government,” said Kravanh Dara, president of the Anti-Poverty Party, which joined a forum for political parties on Tuesday.

In addition, he said, Cambodians need better rights of information and access to information from the government. “The fourth power must be strengthened,” he said.

Opposition supporters, right groups and other civil society NGOs say they are battling increased efforts by the ruling party to silence government dissent, including most recently the expulsion of 29 opposition lawmakers from the CPP-led National Assembly.

Expelled lawmaker Ou Chanrith said the ruling party continues “oppression and intimidation” against the opposition, rights organizations and other civil society groups. He called on a review of the penal code, which criminalizes defamation, as well as the press law and the law on demonstrations, which all lead to suppression of freedoms.

Tuesday’s forum was held to help political parties determine their policies ahead of the campaign period and election. This will help voters decide which party is right for them, said Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.