Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pursat yells ‘cut’ on CCHR

Pursat yells ‘cut’ on CCHR

A police official approaches the car of a CCHR staff member and film crew in Pursat province on Saturday, after they conducted video interviews with villagers affected by forced evictions. CCHR
A police official approaches the car of a CCHR staff member and film crew in Pursat province on Saturday, after they conducted video interviews with villagers affected by forced evictions. CCHR

Pursat yells ‘cut’ on CCHR

A human rights staffer and three documentary filmmakers were confronted and detained by environmental police in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district over the weekend as they attempted to interview residents in a land dispute.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights staffer Vanndy Buth and documentary filmmakers Phan Ream, Voun Boren and Suong Sopheak – hired by ActionAid Cambodia – were prevented from leaving Sangkon Thmey village while on a trip to investigate forced land evictions tied to a special economic zone operated by logging tycoon Try Pheap, according to a statement released Saturday.

“Such an obstruction should [require] a court order,” said CCHR advocacy manager Piseth Duch. “It’s a bad activity relating to an NGO’s freedoms, because it is not illegal to interview and shoot video.”

Having reached the province on December 22, Buth was twice asked to meet district governor Heng Sopheana the next day to discuss the documentary, a request he said they had no legal obligation to comply with.

“The community had already informed the authorities. We had no plan to meet with the district authority. As far as i know, there is no law that requires us to inform the authorities,” he said, adding that they had scheduled interviews with 21 families and were hewing to a tight schedule.

The next morning, local environmental police were waiting, preventing the quartet from filming at the site by blocking the road.

On December 24, the team attempted to resume its work but was not allowed to leave the village for 90 minutes. Buth said the quartet’s car was stopped at an environmental checkpoint where they were told to wait for a senior official to reach the spot.

“We were not questioned, just stopped there. One official walked around our car and took photos,” he said.

Governor Sopheana yesterday said that local authorities had never been informed the CCHR crew would be performing activities in the district, which is why they were summoned to district headquarters.

“We want to know what they are doing. I waited for them two days, but they didn’t come. We did not interfere with their work,” Sopheana said.

Pan Morakat, head of the provincial environment department, added that the stopping of the CCHR car was not out of the ordinary as the group was crossing the Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary. It was not an “illegal detention”, he said.

“Anyone, who crosses the protected area without information, needs to be checked,” he said. “Some people come here to commit wildlife and forestry crimes.”

But Moeun Tola, head of labour advocacy group Central, said there was no article in the constitution or existing legislation that required a registered NGO to obtain permission before carrying out interviews or conducting site visits.

“In my mind, this was a violation of their rights by the police. The Cambodian constitution should be respected and not be based on arbitrary verbal orders by local officials,” he said.

For its part, CCHR said the incident was linked to the “escalating crackdown on fundamental freedoms” of civil society groups over the past year, adding that severe restrictions were being placed on the work of NGOs.

“We call on the relevant local authorities in the area to immediately cease all threats and harassment against members of civil society, as well as attempts to illegitimately interfere with their work,” read the statement, which was signed by five other civil society groups.

MOST VIEWED

  • 12th Cambodia int’l film festival to see return of Hollywood star

    Phnom Penh is set to come alive with the magic of cinema as the highly anticipated 12th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) takes centre stage. Boasting an impressive line-up of 188 films from 23 countries, including captivating shorts, feature films, documentaries and animation, the festival promises an

  • Brawl marrs football final as Indonesian take gold in seven goal thriller

    The Indonesian men's U22 men national football team were crowned champions of the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia, defeating Thailand 5-2 in extra time on May 16 at Olympic National Stadium in Phnom Penh. The match was marred by an ugly incident that occured in the 91

  • Bareknuckle champion wants Kun Khmer fighter

    Dave Leduc, who is the current openweight Lethwei boxing champion in Myanmar, has announced that he will travel to Cambodia this year to challenge SEA Games gold medallist Prum Samnang any time that is convenient, after their planned match later this month in Slovakia was

  • Candlelight Party disqualified from July general election

    The National Election Committee (NEC) has disqualified the Candlelight Party (CP) from contesting the upcoming general election, citing a lack of valid documentation. NEC spokesman Khorn Keomono said the CP failed to fulfil one of the three main requirements: including original documentation proving their registration

  • 1.4 billion dollar Phnom Penh-Bavet expressway due in four years

    The Government, through the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, has officially signed a public-private partnership agreement with a private company for the construction of a Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway project that will connect the capital to Svay Rieng province. The budget for the project is

  • New Law on Taxation comes into effect

    Cambodia has enacted the eagerly-awaited new Law on Taxation, which aims to improve the national tax regime’s compliance with present and future international standards and economic conditions; encourage accountability, effectiveness and transparency in the collection process; and promote investment in the Kingdom. King Norodom