The Phnom Penh city government is refusing to allow rights advocates to cycle through the city on International Women’s Day, saying a peloton protesting violence to women will tie up traffic on Tuesday’s national holiday.
NGO-CDAW coordinator Chim Channeang told RFA’s Khmer Service on March 7 that civil society organizations and other groups protesting women rights abuses had planned to gather in front of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and cycle in a group to the National Assembly in an effort to end violence on women.
But that protest was blocked when the municipal government refused to give the cyclists representing women’s rights groups and other civil society organizations permission.
“We negotiated with them, but city hall denied us permission saying it will cause traffic jams,” Chim Channeang said. “They say they want us to gather right there on the spot with no cycling.”
A statement by the women’s groups released on March 7 under the topic: “End violence on women” said the organizations are scheduled to submit a petition to the national assembly requesting that the national government and other relevant authorities practice gender equality and to take seriously women’s rights abuses.
In addition the groups want the government to develop a clear, effective mechanism to reduce poverty and prevent violence,fully fund the Ministry of Women and ensure that Cambodians demanding their rights aren't met with violence from the government.
Executive Director of The Cambodian Center for Human Rights Chok Sopheap said using traffic as an excuse to block the protest limits people’s rights to gather peacefully.
Long Dimanche, a spokesman for the city, told RFA there wasn’t enough room on the streets for a group ride on a holiday. International Women’s Day is a national holiday in Cambodia.
“Please understand the problems related to the traffic because tomorrow March 8, there will be other groups doing the cycling as well,” he said.
Organizers said that the city was dodging the issue.
“It’s just cycling. It’s normal,” Chim Channeang said. “Importantly, we have proper organizers. It won’t cause any traffic problems. We informed them in advance so that they would know, and when they knew, they just denied us.”
Reported by Sonorng Khe for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.