Photos Courtesy of Reuters and AFP
The Boiling Point: The Deadly Clash on 3rd January 2014
"Cambodia stands at a crossroads, change is coming to Cambodia faster than many anticipated." ~ Surya Subedy, U.N. Human Rights Envoy to Cambodia
Cambodia has made familiar headlines again not seen since the deadly crackdown on protests in 1998. The country is going through tremendous social and political upheaval since the last national elections on July 2013. On 3rd January 2014, most Cambodians and people around the world were shocked and shaken by the images and the video clips of the savagery of the brutal force by military police against striking garment workers, who just exercised their rights to demand a living wage of $160 on Veng Sreng Street in the capital city of Phnom-Penh. The strike turned fatal as the military police used AK-47 assault rifles to fire life bullets directly into the crowds of rocks, slingshots, and Molotov cocktails throwing protesters killing at least five dead and injured more than forty and most of them with gunshot wounds. Twenty-three other strikers, activists, and union representatives were also arrested by soldiers during a protest and held in a Kompong Cham maximum-security prison at this writing.
The next day, a large group of military police accompanied by a group of men dressed in plain clothes with a red ribbon around their arms wielding sticks, batons, metal pipes and axes stormed and drove the peaceful protestors Phnom-Penh’s Freedom Park, which had served as the Cambodian National Rescue Party’s base for the last three months.
In Cambodia many people have been deprived of civil rights and liberties. Following this crack down, the government issued a statement explaining that the constitutional freedom to assemble in the city would be banned indefinitely “until security and public order is guaranteed." This suspension of Cambodian Constitutional Rights is unlawful according Articles 37 and 41. At a press conference at the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom-Penh to wrap up his six days fact-finding mission, U.N. Human Rights envoy Surya Subedy condemned the use of lethal force against the protesters and added that "the ban on demonstration should be lifted."
Cambodia has reached a boiling point where the ruling party had decided to use armed forces with AK-47 assault rifles to crackdown on the social and political demands of the citizens. The impact of this deadly clash has grave consequences in terms of human security. In a democratic society, the authorities cannot ignore the demands of the citizens. The government needs to embrace a constructive and cooperative resolution by discarding the excessive use of violence to address workers’ demands and to deal with political dissent. Ensuring social order and the continued peace is in the best interest of all people. Given the current levels of tension, the ruling party must abandon confrontational rhetoric and exercising restraint towards protestors to build stability and prosperity. Political reconciliation norms through dialogue, compromise, and a legislature that enjoys by all are keys to solve this deadlock. Good cannot come from force or fear. The alternative is unimaginable.