Monks, garment workers lead Cambodia rally on Human Rights Day

Thousands of Cambodians took to the streets to call for respect for human rights and the release of a group of jailed activists.

POSTED: 10 Dec 2014 18:09

PHNOM PENH: Thousands of Cambodians, including Buddhist monks and garment workers, on Wednesday (Dec 10) rallied across the capital calling for respect for human rights and the release of a group of jailed land activists.

Campaigners say premier Hun Sen, who has held power for nearly three decades, has backed frequent crackdowns on dissent and presides over a poor human rights record in the country.

On Wednesday around 3,000 people massed outside the parliament building in Phnom Penh, many holding balloons, flags and portraits of jailed activists, as they marked the UN-designated global Human Rights Day. Rally-goers submitted a petition calling on the government to “halt the use of force and violence against people, rights defenders, and to stop forced evictions”.

Land grabbing is a particularly acute problem in Cambodia where the rule of law is weak and property claims have been distorted by the legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, which scrapped private ownership.

“We are calling for the government to respect human rights. Our rights have been abused and our land has been grabbed,” Nhoung Khom, 42, told AFP.

A Cambodian court last month jailed 10 female land rights activists, a 75-year-old woman, and a monk for a year each for blocking traffic during a protest.

“During my time in Cambodia, I have followed the human rights situation closely. There have been some improvements, but there have also been setbacks,” US Ambassador to Cambodia, William Todd, said in a statement to mark the day.

Hundreds of garment workers who joined the rally also called for higher wages and the factory owners to respect their rights.

Last month, Cambodia raised the minimum monthly wage for 2015 for some 650,000 garment workers to US$128 after a series of strikes and protests over pay and conditions, but the hike fell short of union demands of US$140.

– AFP/xq